Here’s the most interesting statistic of the NFL season. Through nine weeks, every single NFL game has been sold out at least 72-hours in advance. Since the league adopted it’s blackout policy in 1973 (to keep games off the local airwaves if tickets remained unsold), there had only been 13 weekends when every scheduled game was a sellout.
In fairness, some of this has been achieved through buy backs, where a team like the Forty-Niners “buys” the unsold tickets to achieve a sell out. This lets the game be televised locally, and at least in theory, helps keep the local fan base interested. Another trick is being used in Jacksonville, where they cover whole sections of the stands with tarp to reduce the seating capacity. Plus, the NFL is reporting tickets sold — not how many people came through the turnstile.
But the bottom line is that the NFL’s popularity continues to grow in a marketplace where other sports are seeing their audiences shrink. Television ratings are up ten percent for NFL games on FOX, the new NBC Sunday Night Football game is a huge hit, and ESPN is drawing record audiences for it’s Monday Night broadcasts. At the same time, ratings for NASCAR dropped dramatically and this year’s World Series ratings plunged to a record low.