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Dolphins face tough sales dilemma, fans face tough choice

The Dolphins will not sell out this Sunday's game in which the St. Louis Rams will visit Sun Life Stadium. That is a virtual fact already given the thousands of tickets that remain unsold as of this writing and the thousands more tickets (often going below market value for seats in better locations) that are available through the secondary market.

That's the problem the Dolphins face this week and have been facing for some time as they continue to weigh whether to -- gulp --  buy their own tickets and lift the TV blackout in the local market.

We know that so far the Dolphins have bought up remaining tickets to ensure the lifting of the TV blackout. I have a guess as to what the Dolphins will do today at the deadline but because it is only a guess and major dollars are at stake for other folks based on what I might write I don't want to share it here.

We'll know soon enough if the Dolphins dig into their own pockets and pay the bill that fans normally pay to make sure the game is televised. Or if the deadline comes and the team allows the blackout to stand.

But what I do want to do today is explain to you the dilemma the team faces in making the decision whether to continue buying its own product (tickets) in hopes that eventually fans will return to the fold and do the buying instead.

Here's the dilemma:

If the Dolphins were playing hardball and not caring whether you fans see the game on television or not, they would simply let Thursday's deadline come and pass and announce the sufficient number of tickets were not sold.

Remember, this is a low threshold. The Dolphins this year are needing to sell 15 percent fewer tickets for a sellout to be granted and yet fans aren't even doing that for this game.

The team could say, "If you want to see the game, South Florida, you have to purchase a ticket and come out to the stadium."

The club is perfectly within its right to do this.

The problem is the Dolphins are on something of a roll of late. They have a chance to even their record at 3-3 on Sunday.  The team has been competitive so far this season. By all accounts the decade-long struggle to find a good young quarterback finally seems on the road to being solved.

So the team wants to continue riding that wave of goo feelings. The club wants please its fans and its fans have universally requested that all the games be on local TV. And the last three weeks, in two overtime losses and a victory over Cincinnati, the TV ratings have reflected a significant uptick in fan interest.

On the other hand, the Dolphins are also a private business. And it is a bad business model to buy your own product and then give it away free on television. (Sounds remotely similar to what newspapers do, but that's another story.)

At some point, the team must and will put its proverbial cleat down and say, "No more free rides. If games aren't sold out, they're not televised."

But is that time now?

Is that time in the middle of this so-called roll I just described above? Are the Dolphins in a position of sufficient strength to tell their fans that they must be at the stadium to see the game or otherwise they won't see the game?

The Tampa Bay Bucs made that call a couple of years ago. You know what the Tampa Bay fans did?

They didn't buy tickets to the games to see the team play. And they stopped watching on television also.

So what the Dolphins have going on is a high wire act.

And this is where you come in ...

The Miami Dolphins read this blog. That is not bragging. It is simply true. Folks at all levels of the organization read this blog from the very top on down. And they read your comments.

So here is the question of this day as the blackout deadline looms and the team makes the delicate decision whether to buy its own tickets and televise the game, or allow the facts of the current market to be the facts of the current market and black out the game:

As fans would you blame the Dolphins if they stop buying their own tickets and the game is blacked out?

Or do you put the responsibility of buying tickets on the actual ticket-buying public and blame fan apathy or a tough economy for the blackout?

And if the Dolphins make the hard decision of blacking out the game, would that decrease your overall excitement about this team? Would you blame the team for a bad public relations move? Or would you understand that business is business and this too shall pass?

This is your chance to tell the team what you, the fans, think ...

Show wisdom in your answers because they matter.

Comments

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Now that the Dolphins are back to winning and are clearly up and coming it would be great if the team could get a new state of the art stadium that rocks for the ages! Winning breeds success and opportunity! Go Dolphins! There is something different about this team and it seems fresh and exciting!!!

The organization has to have the game on local markets at this point. Especially since it seems the team may be on the upswing. Once the team is really competitive and winning again, the local fans will have witnessed the turn-a-round and will want to see them play. This is when you don't lift the blackouts. Not until then.

if i lived in S. Fla, i would not buy a ticket until ireland was gone!!! he has done nothing for this organization and i refuse to buy anything dolphins related until he is gone. i've been a fan for over 40 years. i am so mad at his ineptitude and the fact that we as an organization have been pathetic for 12 years.. save 2 years, everyone says we are a player away... baloney, we haven't any depth (thank you free agency) and our draft picks are hit and misses every year... with few hits.. please bring in Bill Polian to run this organization!!

I am a Miami native, living in NYC and can only see my Fins when a) the come play the sh!tty Jets or b) when I am in town visiting family. I just paid $300 to take two trains and sit around a bunch of jets fans to see the fins play in a couple weeks. You can watch OUR team play for fifty bucks....Support this team, give the players a reason to believe we care. Be able to say, I saw T-hill play his rookie season. Care for God's sake!

After the decade of product miami has out on the field I feel that this year only they owe the fans a non blackout season. The fans still pumped money into the org for many years, it's only fair for the team to eat that this season.

Yesterday's gone made one of the dumbest comments I've ever read. He doesn't go to games because there's too much else going on in Miami? I live in NYC and I go to the games every time the phins are in town. There's way more stuff to do here than Miami yet I would go everyweek to watch the dolphins no matter what their record is. So just because you're a fair weather fan don't get all high all mighty acting like you live in the center of the universe and can't be bothered with supporting your team. Fans like you make me sick.

DC Dolfan, excellence in posting! Great job sir! Well said!

I grew up in Cooper City in the late 1970's and remember blackouts. I hated them as I had to listen to the game on the radio. I now live in Denver and the stark differences in how these two areas view sports is facinating. The Broncos could be 0-15 and that 16th game will be sold out. I turn down Bronoc tickets to watch the Dolphins (call me crazy) becuase they are my team and have been since 1970. Shame on the people of Miami/Ft. Lauderdale for not supporting this up and coming team.

The focus is back on the game and not the orange carpet. The team is playing tough and deserves the support of the fans. I'll never be a fan of Ireland but this coach and staff is quickly earning my respect. I'll be back in the stadium for a few games this stadium.

As my name implies, I live in CT so I have 'no dog in this fight'. That being said, I believe the Dolphins should give the fans till December before blacking out any games. Fans are still hesitant to believe with the team at 2-3. (Can you blame them?)

Even if Miami was 5-0, it would be tough to sell out the Rams game (not exactly a 'sexy' game, is it?) By December, the team will be by the harder to draw games.

If the Dolphins are around .500 in December and the fans STILL won't buy tickets to watch division games against NE and Buffalo, the fans would be wrong to revolt over that decision.

cowkilla,

The Dolphins don't "owe" the fans to stop blackouts for the rest of the year. It would be nice if they continue to eat the cost but they have been carrying apathetic Dolphins fans for 10 years, by buying their own tickets, because the product has been bad. Now that the team is competitive and showing real signs of hope, fans need to get their butts out to the Stadium!

Out of town fans would love to be able to go see the Dolphins, Tannehill, and Philbin. So Fla fans are spoiled bandwagoners. The team should just black it out, yet give those who attend an extra ticket.
Kevin, Colorado

Ronnie,

Your 'chicken/egg' argument is the SAME agrument both ways!

Fans stay home because they have come to expect that the Dolphins will bail them out and buy enough tickets to broadcast the game. I bet you get another 10,000 people in the stadium if the game was blacked out.

All things being equal, most fans will choose the free option any day.

You always invest when times are down. And you always cut back on the spending when times are good.
Aa long as the Dolphins stink, you buy the tickets.
When the Dolphins are sniffing at playoffs, you offer a TV-blackout.
I live in Norway and shouldn`t care, but I think we need one more win and be at 3-3, before TV blackout begins.

Craig M,

Dude im 35 yard as well. right behind dolphins bench section 108(i think) row 2. tailgating before the game! PRIMETIME baby. I was there last year as well, was heckled like crazy walking in wearing my reggie jersey.....not a peep on the way out. Maybe reggie rushing for 200+ had something to do about that. i expect more of the same this year.

I would love to come to the games but a 5 hour drive is not in the cards. The wonderful NFL does not televise most of the games in Ocala, FL. Why? Even when the Jaguars are not playing they still show a different game. This week it's Dallas and the Ravens. I'm tired of this because growing up my dad and I watched every game of the season. Now I'm listening on the internet with my son. Ridiculous

Mando, $2 beer would and dolphins would sell out every game.

THREE WORDS: START WINNING CONSISTENTLY. Fans come out when teams win. Period. This is true in EVERY Sport. Don't believe me? Look at the attendance records of THE YANKEES during their "down period" (1965-1975)

As a season ticket holder I can see why ticket sales are down. The customer service for tickets is pathetic. But a fan is not a finatic if they don't take advantage of seeing it live. Please help the fins fans and provide us with real customer service. I have had 3 incidents with issues with my tickets and no call back for weeks. The team is great and so are the real fans. I say buy the tickets and try and build an audience.

I'd say that the organization continuing to ensure the games are televised on local TV is important, because as the Dolphins continue to improve, local fans will realize that they're missing out on the action and will decide to go to the stadium and support the team for real.

If the team decides to deep-six the telecasts, then how will anyone know if they're even worth going to see?

If Miami starts rolling, the fans will start showing. Give them enough to know that they should be there, and they'll be there, is my take.

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