Chargers expect home opener to be blacked out
Fans accustomed to watching San Diego Chargers home games on local TV will have to find something else to do Sunday afternoon - and perhaps several other Sundays this fall, as well.
With roughly 8,000 general admission tickets still unsold, Southern California's only NFL team expects Sunday's home opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars to be blacked out.
That will end a streak of 48 straight sellouts, including the playoffs. The last Chargers home game blacked out was against New Orleans on Nov. 7, 2004, when Marty Schottenheimer was their coach and Drew Brees was their quarterback.
''We're disappointed, but from a couple weeks out we thought this was a possibility,'' executive vice president A.G. Spanos said Wednesday.
The deadline for reaching a sellout is 1:15 p.m. PST Thursday. Teams can request a 24-hour extension from the NFL, but that's usually done only when a team is confident it can sell reach a sellout.
Spanos, grandson of owner Alex Spanos, said the only sure sellout is against New England on Oct. 24. The next game with the best chance of selling out is a Monday night game against division rival Denver on Nov. 22.
Spanos said there are more than 10,000 tickets left to sell for a game against Arizona on Oct. 3.
Spanos said the slow economy is the top factor for slow ticket sales.
There likely are other factors affecting ticket sales in a city where the Chargers have long been the favorite team.
One is that many fans were left grumbling after the Chargers' dismal performance in a 21-14 loss at Kansas City on Monday night. The Chargers, trying to win their fifth straight AFC West title, were coming off an embarrassing 17-14 loss to the New York Jets in the playoffs.
Then there's the divisive issue of general manager A.J. Smith's hardball tactics against two of the team's best players, Pro Bowl wide receiver Vincent Jackson and left tackle Marcus McNeill. When the two restricted free agents didn't sign their contract tenders for more than $3 million by June 15, Smith slashed their pay by more than $2.5 million, giving them less incentive to end their holdouts. He then placed them on the roster exempt list, meaning that if they do sign, they'll be suspended for three games.
Jackson already is serving a three-game NFL suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
Besides the Patriots, there's a lack of marquee teams on the home schedule. The Chargers' other home games are against Tennessee and San Francisco, as well as division rivals Oakland and Kansas City.
''I know fans will be disappointed, and we're disappointed,'' Spanos said. ''We appreciate that they're passionate about Chargers football.''
The Chargers aren't the only ones having a hard time selling tickets. The San Diego Padres, who've led the NL West for most of the season, have played before thousands of empty seats at Petco Park, including during a key four-game series against the San Francisco Giants.