Every Football fan who has followed the game for more than a year or two knows about the 72 hour blackout rule. We have heard about it here..because the Bucs for the first time in many years ( actually ever since Raymond James was constructed) are not sold out and that blackouts are a real possibility for area fans. Its quite likely that area businesses will buy up any loose tickets in time, which is 72 hours prior to kickoff, allowing us fans to watch the game on TV if we dont go out to the game to enjoy it. Anyone can understand the rule, the owners want to make sure the game is a sellout before they will let others watch the game on TV. What people dont know, is that not long ago, some games that were sell outs weeks before kickoff, were STILL blacked out! Why you ask? Because NFL owners not only didnt want you to watch the games if they didnt sell out, they didnt want you to watch the games PERIOD!
Doing some research for a completely different topic, I stumbled onto an August 24th St. Petersburgh Times Sports Section on the internet. Reading the article, I learned that the NFL Constitution had a rule that forbid Non-Network games from being televised even if there was a complete sell out before the 72 hour period. This is because the 72 hour blackout rule was a law passed by congress in 1973 AGAINST the wishes of the NFL owners. They felt that people would wait till the last minute before buying a ticket if they ever lifted a blackout, and only did so because they HAD TO with network games.
But pre-season games were not network games. Neither were Saturday Night Regular Season openers like they had in 1978 and 1979. Because they were scheduled for Saturday, they were no longer under network coverage, and they could not be televised. The 1978 Opener against the NY Giants had sold out far in advance of the 72 hours before kickoff, but there was nothing anyone could do, it was in the NFL Constitution!
Well that didnt bother Bucs owner Hugh Culverhouse! - Who gave authorization, against NFL rules, to lift the local blackout that covered the 1978 preseason game at Tampa Stadium between the Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Lets go back a bit for a brief history lesson....Bucs Dolphins preseason games back in the day, were anything but! Starters would go sometimes into the 4th Qtr, or would come back in the game at crucial times! It was as close to a regular season game as you got in the preseason, and Dolphins then owner Joe Robbie stopped playing the Bucs for several years because he felt the Bucs were just to physical with his Dolphins during what are supposed to be practice games.
So here we are in August of 1978, and Mr. Robbie was not happy with Bucs Owner Hugh Culverhouse for putting him on the spot, because with Culverhouse agreeing to lift the blackout, it put the pressure on Robbie to either agree or disagree and look like the bad guy to the fans, but good guy to fellow owners who at the time did not want televised preseason games going on. None the less, he agreed and Tampa Bay area fans were treated to a live showing of a preseason game that sold out well before the deadline.
Today we take preseason games for granted, they're on TV every year. But there was a time when no matter what, the NFL did not want to open the airwaves for its fans. People like Bucs Owner Hugh Culverhouse played a pivotal role in changing that, by having his hand in the very first preseason game to be televised, EVER!