Cleveland Browns fans who live in Mahoning County and points south may have a tough time viewing a few of their team's games on Sunday afternoons this fall.
WKBN TV-27, the CBS affiliate and the American Football Conference outlet for telecasts, falls into a unique situation that no other television station in the nation has to face. You see, the station - located on Sunset Drive in Boardman - is within 75 miles of both Cleveland and Pittsburgh.
That means Channel 27 considers both the Browns and Steelers home teams. But remember, these two teams are the NFL's version of the Hatfields and the McCoys (no pun intended, Browns fans). Channel 27 claims to be one of the hostages of the feud because whatever game the station picks to air, it will make enemies.
On Sept. 11, the kickoff Sunday for the 2011 NFL season, Channel 27 aired the Steelers-Ravens battle. Many clad in brown and orange who don't have NFL Ticket or Time Warner Cable had to go out of their homes to catch the Browns-Bengals battle.
Those Time Warner subscribers in the city of Youngstown and across Trumbull County are not conflicted because Time-Warner carries Cleveland CBS outlet WOIO-TV 19 on their systems.
According to personnel at WKBN-TV, the choice is not up to the station on which team to air. A little known NFL broadcast rule - specifically made for secondary markets like Youngstown - is to blame, they tell cranky Browns fans.
According to the WKBN website, both the Browns and the Steelers "claim" Youngstown as a secondary TV market. When there is a conflict like Sept. 11, the NFL rules state that if one team is away and the other team is at home, the home team (in this case, Cleveland) "protects" their attendance and the away team (in this case, Pittsburgh) "serves" the fans who can't attend.
So, due to contractual obligations and NFL rules, WKBN 27 must air the team that is away, which in the case of Sept. 11 was the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The website reiterated that this is not a decision made by local management at WKBN-TV. They told viewers to call the NFL complaint line at 212-450-2000 to give any input on this decision.
According to the 2011 schedule, the teams play at the same time seven times, including Sept. 11 and Sept. 18. This past Sunday, the Steelers were home to the NFC's Seattle Seahawks and the game was carried by the Fox network. The Browns were at Indianapolis in a game carried by Channel 27.
One man, Ross Linert of Austintown, would not put his viewing habits at the mercy of these quirky rules. Instead, Ross bought an aerial antenna to put up on his roof. This way, Ross can watch his Browns on the Cleveland channel, while his Steelers-saluting wife can tune into the black and gold on Pittsburgh's KDKA-TV.
On Sunday, Ross showed his animosity toward Channel 27 for snubbing his team by using his antenna to pull in Channel 19 to watch the Browns.
Ross said his antenna cost about $170, a relative bargain compared to the regular cost of DirecTVs NFL Ticket, which shows all Sunday NFL games.
DirecTV is also running a special giving NFL Ticket free to those customers who agree to sign a two-year contract for satellite television.
Of course, Browns fans like Ross Linert have signed on to root for their team through thick and thin for decades, in hopes of seeing a Super Bowl. Ross said he thinks Channel 27 is going for the higher ratings of the more successful Pittsburgh Steelers and their growing fan base rather than staying loyal to the Browns.
By the way, the Browns and Steelers will be playing at the same time again on Oct. 2 (Steelers on the road); Oct. 30 (Steelers at home); Nov. 13 (Steelers on road); Dec. 4 (both at home) and Dec. 24 (Steelers at home).