This is what happens when your marketing team does its job a little too well.
Three of the four playoff games this weekend had trouble selling tickets, and only "corporate charity" swooping in at the last minute prevented local TV blackouts. There are reasons for this: short notice, gawdawful weather, and insanely jacked up ticket prices are three. But if you dug a little deeper, you found there was another reason: lots of people simply didn't expect their home teams to win, and as a result didn't feel like shelling out a gazillion dollars on short notice for the privilege of sitting on a tiny plastic seat in sub-zero temperatures for the dubious pleasure of watching the local squad get flattened. Never mind that "on any given Sunday" nonsense, these fans - including the fan/owners of the Green Bay Packers, who were notably abdicating the chance to watch football on the literally frozen tundra of Lambeau Field - had checked the odds and found them to not be ever in their favor.
So they decided to save their money and stay home. And they did this because they were convinced their teams had no chance, because their opponents had been so relentlessly built up by the NFL's star making machine. Play up a few teams enough - like, say, the 49ers - as Serious Super Bowl Threats and you by definition dismiss everyone else. Which is fine and dandy, I suppose, when you're trying to put together narratives for your top contenders, but not so great when you're trying to get the supporters of your designated Peter McNeeleys to pony up $90 for a nosebleed seat, plus parking, plus $10 for a domestic beer so watery it's going to freeze before it hits the bottom of the souvenir cup. You've spent the year convincing them they don't have a shot; why should they suddenly change their minds now?
Look, I don't blame anyone in Green Bay who wants to stay home instead of venturing out into what looks to be the backdrop of a David Attenborough nature documentary to watch a rusty Aaron Rodgers. I don't blame fans in Cincy who don't want to shell out to watch their guys, whom all the pundits have already dismissed, in miserable weather of their own. And I don't blame Colts fans because frankly, their game doesn't look that interesting. But I do blame the pundits who are shocked, shocked that people would prefer to watch the games from the comfort of their own homes, where concessions are much more reasonable and the sofas are generally paid for, when the outlook ain't good and the weather's abominable. It's just ironic that the NFL and its media corps don't realize that they're the reason so many of these folks are staying home. Next year, they could maybe play up everyone's chances instead of focusing on a couple of star teams to the exclusion of all others.
Or is that crazy talk?