Watch for fans to become the story... again.
At first I admit, 10,000 tickets for a home playoff game is a bit much. So what if tickets have only been publicly available for about a week after a small season ticket base had grabbed their fill. And not knowing the exact date, time, or even the week for which the game will be played against an undetermined opponent is inexcusable.
Lack of selling tickets is usually a conversation starter -- a topic that feeds many angles. It sustains the local antagonism and exhausts the trivial talking points. But the playoffs?
In truth, right now, it's crickets. There were only four comments (at the time I wrote this Thursday evening) on the initial story that was written Thursday afternoon. And that reaction was about a few fans thinking about making the journey from outside the region.
Cincinnati's media will use it as a general narrative about Cincinnati's fans, but that feels a bit premature. The story, as well as the media's reaction to it, feels rather... unsurprising. But if this story holds its legs by next Tuesday, get ready for it. It'll be warranted.
There ARE several elements going into this story. For one, the unknown date, time and opponent is being shrugged as a secondary excuse. The finances and attendance requires planning for a lot of families -- many of whom aren't really that concerned about the Bengals during Christmas week, and instead have spent the last two weeks with Holiday preparations (such as buying stuff at Target and then last second online ordering). Honey, Aunt Mildred will be staying over for about a week. Make sure you get and the ToFu turkey. Sure thing, but only if you gave me the high-powered nail gun that I want!
Clearly the Bengals are nervous.
Citing a target number somewhere between 10-15,000, Jeff Berding, the club's director of sales and public affairs, said they are planning a major push to make sure "we don't join that list of teams that haven't sold out playoff games." Berding said an email blast in the next few days featuring such players as left end Carlos Dunlap, left guard Andrew Whitworth and wide receiver Marvin Jones is ticketed for anyone who has bought a ticket this season or inquired about tickets.
Berding called the amount of tickets needed to be sold, "sizable".
"We’re very excited about how the team played. It has made it easier. The fans have been supportive but we’ve undergone some extraordinary efforts to get there," Berding said via the Cincinnati Enquirer. "We appreciate the fans and in some cases our business partners in a big way. We got all eight sold out and on TV. We are happy with that, but it is tempered by the fact that there’s going to be a game nine and we have a very sizable task in getting it sold out."
Joe Reedy with the Cincinnati Enquirer writes:
Since 2011, the Bengals have reduced ticket prices and put a team on the field that has qualified for the playoffs three straight years. The one albatross remains a postseason win but at some point blame has to shift from the team and fans have to take responsibility for why they are staying away. If this game is blacked out, the national dialogue and criticism will be more about the fans and the city than the owner.
In the end, this story will hold significance next week. Huge significance. Fans will be targeted. What else does the team have to do? I'm confident now that everyone's lives have settled down (believe it or not, sports doesn't center everyone's universe) and that people can resume their Bengals fanaticism that this ticket story will move on and the game will be declared a sell out by Thursday's deadline. If I'm wrong, I'm wrong. Call it a gut feeling though. As fans, we become the story in this city sometimes but in the end, we pull through. And if not, how can you not be disgusted?