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This one is a freebie


When you sit down Saturday evening to watch the Jaguars kickoff their preseason against the Miami Dolphins, you might want to mouth the words, "Thank you."

Who would you be thanking? Wayne Weaver, of course, for having an insatiable desire to have his football team on local TV for its nonticket-buying fans to enjoy.

That's why you're going to see this game; for no other reason than because Weaver wants you to see it. If it was according to a strict interpretation of the TV blackout rules, you wouldn't be seeing this one. You're getting a freebie, folks.

As of 7:30 on Wednesday night, this game still needed to sell 1,500 tickets to reach the Jaguars' TV blackout number of a little less than 50,000 nonpremium-seat tickets sold. Maybe you don't think 1,500 unsold tickets are a big deal, but I know old-guard owners who wouldn't give a second thought to televising this game or even asking for an extension of the time limit.

They are old-guard owners who railed at the 1973 Act of Congress that forced the NFL to televise sold-out games to its local markets. It was that Act of Congress, of course, that gave us the 72-hour rule that would've blacked out this Saturday's game at 7:30 last evening.

Prior to 1973, all games were blacked out to the markets that were hosting them, and that's the way the old-guard owners thought it should stay. They were furious at being forced to give away their product. Prior to 1973, it didn't matter how many people attended a game, it was blacked out to the home market. Remember last year's Steelers game? It's the only game in Jaguars history for which every ticket was sold, but had the year been 1972 instead of 2004, it would've been blacked out in Jacksonville.

Weaver is not one of the old-guard owners. Weaver so desperately wants his team to be on television in its hometown that he went to the expense of covering 10,000 seats this season; of reducing Alltel Stadium's seating capacity by 13 percent for the purpose of reducing the Jaguars' blackout number. That blackout number is now the fourth-smallest in the league.

So, what will your reaction be to all of this? Will you sit down at your TV on Saturday night and decide that Weaver has caved again and that he'll do it in the regular season, too? Or will you accept Saturday's telecast as an act of generosity – the blackout rule isn't as sternly enforced in the preseason as it is for regular-season games – and understand that such acts will not be forthcoming this fall?

Don't delude yourself into thinking Jacksonville passed its first test. It did not. Truth be known, it failed. If this were a regular-season game, it would've been blacked out last evening at 7:30.

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