It's as if the Keystone Kops were controlling the cable operations in the Keystone State.
On Friday night, as the New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals were preparing for their first preseason action of the year - and Tim Tebow's all-important first official snaps in a Jet uniform - many viewers of NFL Network instead were greeted with a replay of Thursday night's Ravens/Falcons preseason tilt.
Including, for some reason, viewers in the Philadelphia area.
"Someone want to explain to me why NFL Network has a replay of the Falcons/Ravens game on and [not] Jets/Bengals?", asked Dan Rodgers of Lower Merion, PA, moments after the game had started.
And Berwyn resident Stephane Hardinger expressed outrage, demanding: "I MUST SEE TIMOTHY TEBOW PLAY."
Philadelphia was not alone in their lack of Tebow Time, as it appears NFLN viewers in Pittsburgh were also affected - including one LaMarr Woodley, who has only been the outside linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers for the last six years.
Even viewers from "the sticks of PA" chimed in expressing their incense of not being able to watch Tebow and Co.
What went wrong?
No, not with Tim Tebow or Mark Sanchez, but with NFL Network's apparent botching of this blackout in areas outside of New York - very far outside New York, it looks like.
Even though it's only a preseason game, and despite the fact that the Jets were on the road in this preseason game, WCBS-TV, which carried the contest in New York, has requested the game be blacked out on NFLN in the greater New York metro.
Being situated in New York, I can confirm that I saw Ravens/Falcons on NFLN on Friday night. And when I flipped over during a commercial break on WCBS' Jets/Bengals coverage to NFLN, for no particular reason, to watch day-old Ravens/Falcons footage, I saw Verizon FiOS insert a local ad break right in the middle of a drive.
I can understand if CBS asks for NFL Network - which was carrying WCBS' feed of the game, thus may have lied within CBS' request - to show alternate programming in New York so that more viewers would watch the Jets/Bengals game on WCBS' air. (It's moot, given that Time Warner and Cablevision, the two major cable companies in NYC, don't even carry NFLN, but that's beside the point.) As such, even viewers in Connecticut and New Jersey were affected by this blackout request. And so, NFLN, rather than just go dark for three hours, had beamed the Ravens/Falcons game to areas in New York City, as well as Connecticut and New Jersey.
Yet in NFLN's infinite wisdom, this included South Jersey, which is Philadelphia Eagles territory. This caused a domino effect that spread to Philadelphia itself, and Pittsburgh, as well.
After about an hour of fielding Twitter complaints from several viewers - including the Super Bowl champion and one-time Pro Bowler LaMarr Woodley - NFL Network's Rich Eisen was compelled to address the issue. "To the people of Pennsylvania, I have no earthly idea why you can't see Jets/Bengals on @NFLNetwork," he tweeted. The fact that the face of NFL Network had to tweet about this may be indicative of a veiled "mea culpa" on NFLN's part for mishandling the blackout of Jets/Bengals in selected areas.
Just so I had all my bases covered, this morning, I spoke to Alicia, a representative from the service department at Comcast, the largest cable provider in Philadelphia, and she confirmed that, according to a colleague who was on duty Friday night, there were no issues central to Comcast with regards to blacking out NFLN or airing replacement programming, nor were there any customer complaints at that time.
Meanwhile, in an ironic twist, it appears viewers in Cincinnati - whose Bengals have been a repeated local television blackout victim during the regular season - were able to watch the WCBS-TV feed of Jets/Bengals on NFL Network on Friday night (that is, if they haven't switched from Time Warner). Locally, Bengals preseason broadcasts are carried on WKRC-TV - and you'd have to wonder if there would have been similar issues, had NFLN opted for Brad Johansen's call of the game. With Tim Tebow on the roster of the opposing team, probably not.
At any rate, NFL Network is scheduled to carry one more Jets preseason game this month, and it's scheduled for next Saturday night against the crosstown rivals - and Super Bowl champions - the New York Giants. And it looks like for the second week in a row, NFLN will once again lean on the Jets' local broadcast team. In fact, according to the schedules on both the Jets' and Giants' websites, it appears there's not even going to be a Giants broadcasting crew handling the game on television. Yes, it's considered a Jets home game, but did I mention the Giants just won the Super Bowl?
Anyway, it'll be interesting to find out whether or not Philadelphia-area viewers will be complaining about how they're watching a rebroadcast of Friday night's Ravens/Lions game in lieu of Jets/Giants on Saturday night.
Likewise, we'll also know if LaMarr Woodley - whose Steelers play both the Jets and Giants in the first half of their 2012-13 campaign - will miss out on viewing potential "game tape" as a result of another screwup at NFL Network.
He may have to go over to Culver City and punk someone.