NFL Blackouts Spare Tampa, Strike San Diego, Cincy

TAMPA ( MainStreet) -- NFL blackouts have plagued Tampa for more than a year, but Monday's Tampa Bay Buccaneers game may top the Rays' wild-card comeback for Tampa's sports miracle of the year.

Though fans in San Diego and Cincinnati won't get to see their teams' home games on television this weeknd, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be seen on television in their home market for the first time in 14 regular-season and preseason games when they host the Indianapolis Colts on ESPN's ( DIS) Monday Night Football. Even better for Bucs fans, the local ABC affiliate has bumped Dancing With The Stars to 1:30 a.m. Tuesday so it can broadcast the game on free television.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be seen on television in their home market for the first time in 14 regular-season and preseason games when they host the Indianapolis Colts on Monday.

With all respect to baseball's Rays, who made up a nine-game deficit to edge the Boston Red Sox for the American League's last playoff spot, the Tampa/St. Petersburg area just saw them in the playoffs last year. It hasn't seen a Bucs home game on its screens since 2009. Credit the bright lights of Monday Night Football or even the visiting Indianapolis Colts if you must, but the Bucs deserve a pat on the back for going 2-1 this season behind quarterback Josh Freeman and starting the year tied with the New Orleans Saints atop the AFC South.

That's giving Tampa a whole lot to talk about right now. Not only do the Rays start their American League Division Series against the Texas Rangers this weekend, but Tampa gets not one, but two Buccaneers home games on television this season. Their Dec. 17 matchup with the Dallas Cowboys at Raymond James ( RJF) Stadium will air on the NFL Network, which remarkably enough isn't subject to NFL blackout rules.

Fans in San Diego will have no such luck this week. After narrowly averting a blackout against the 0-2 Kansas City Chiefs last week, the San Diego Chargers failed to sell out this week's home game against the 0-3 Miami Dolphins 72 hours before kickoff and lost the CBS ( CBS) broadcast. Fans and ownership would love to lay the blame on the miserable competition, but this just seems to be the status quo after the Chargers snapped a streak of 48 consecutive home sellouts last year and blacked out their first four home games of the season.

If most places had weather as gorgeous as San Diego's tends to be around this time of year, with an average high of 74 degrees and still plenty of sunshine, maybe their fans would want to spend less time cooped up in a stadium wearing replica jerseys, too. The problem is that Chargers fans aren't too sure where their team will be from year to year. The Chargers have made it plain they want a new stadium and the NFL's backed their efforts, saying it won't put another Super Bowl in San Diego until they leave Qualcomm ( QCOM) Stadium.

San Diego and the Chargers have failed to get business partners to buy into their plans for an $800 million facility amid recent economic instability, but neighboring communities in Chula Vista, Escondido and Oceanside have made plays for the Chargers since. Chula Vista was even so bold as to recommend changing the team name to the Chula Vista Chargers if the city built a stadium for the team. Such instability is no way to fill early season seats, but at least this blackout looks like an anomaly with the Chargers' next home matchups against the Green Bay Packers and Oakland Raiders in November expected to sell out.

The same can't be said in Cincinnati. The Cincinnati Bengals just gave CBS a bit of bad news by failing to sell out Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills and handing fans their sixth-straight home game blackout. Franchise quarterback Carson Palmer's repeated absence and the team's 1-2 record during it certainly haven't helped matter, nor has the excellent memory of the Cincinnati faithful. Last year at this time, Cincinnati fans had both the Cincinnati Reds in baseball's playoffs and a Bengals team with Palmer, star wide recivers Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens and a 2-1 record heading into October.

This year the Pittsburgh Pirates spent more time atop the AL Central than the Reds, who missed the playoffs entirely, and the relatively faceless Bengals' only sign of life thus far has been a season-opening hiccup against the Cleveland Browns and some "extracurricular activity" by the team's starting running back and wide receiver. If you're potential ticket buyer in Cincinnati deciding how best to invest your sports dollar, what a difference a year makes.

-- Written by Jason Notte in Boston.

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Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix, the Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent. He previously served as the political and global affairs editor for Metro U.S., layout editor for Boston Now, assistant news editor for the Herald News of West Paterson, N.J., editor of Go Out! Magazine in Hoboken, N.J., and copy editor and lifestyle editor at the Jersey Journal in Jersey City, N.J.

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