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SUPER BOWL XXXII: DENVER BRONCOS VS. GREEN BAY PACKERS;
3:15 P.M., SUNDAY; TV: CHANNEL 4. RADIO: KNX (1070)

Their Efforts Worth Price of Admission

Tickets: It's a seller's market, and don't those scalpers know it.

January 24, 1998|T.J. SIMERS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN DIEGO — The pontiff went to Cuba instead of the Super Bowl.

No ticket.

"They would probably find a way to get Clinton and his date into the game if they didn't have tickets," says Big Jake, a ticket scalper from Pittsburgh. "Otherwise, it's the toughest Super Bowl ticket since Atlanta."

The scalpers are on the prowl, working harder, they say, because Qualcomm Stadium has fewer than 70,000 seats and because the NFL Players Assn. received fewer tickets than normal. Many brokers get their tickets from NFL players because NFL players are always looking to make more money and don't want to go to the game and be reminded how bad they are.

If all the cellular phones of the ticket scalpers gathered in the lobby of the downtown Marriott went off at once, it would sound like an air raid.

"Two out of every three people here are ticket scalpers or brokers," said Joel Hollis, a gas company employee who works in his spare time for Best Seats in Pittsburgh.

The sports editor of the Los Angeles Times is here too--there are parties to attend--and while getting into an elevator, someone offered him $1,500 for his photo press pass. He declined.

A reporter for a San Diego newspaper turned a pair of $275 tickets into a $4,000 profit. He's probably bummed out no one offered him $1,500 for his press pass.

A broker from Miami, who priced Super Bowl tickets with a face value of $275 at $1,050 for his customers, took orders and arrived in San Diego short about 18 tickets to find the asking price climbing. "If I can buy them for $1,700 to $1,800, I stand to lose $600 to $700 a ticket, because I have to fill the orders.

"This doesn't happen all the time; hopefully, once every 10 years, but it's a small venue and the ticket is much tougher than some of us thought."

A man stood in the lobby with a sign around his neck: Need tickets. Figuring he was unable to speak, an attempt was made to use sign language. "Get lost," he snapped.

"We're not supposed to be talking to media because the media can kill the market," said Fred from L.A. "People start reading how much tickets are going for and then they want the big bucks. We prefer ignorance.

"You got people coming here with tickets they got from their corporation and just for kicks they ask how much they can get for their tickets, and suddenly it's 'Honey, that could pay for our whole vacation,' and they get caught up in it, and start shopping around for better deals and come game day the price drops and they're still holding onto their tickets."

Visitors to the San Diego Marriott and the Packer and Bronco team hotels in La Jolla walk through a gantlet of scalpers, some milling around the lobbies from morning to night and all asking the same question: "Any extra tickets?"

Does anyone ever say, "Sure, I was hoping you'd ask that very question--I got two 50-yard-line seats right here I won't be using"?

It happens, the scalpers say, but the two guys from Pittsburgh, who paid for air fare, car and hotel, walked all day asking that question and didn't get a single bite.

"We might be here all week and not get a thing, watch the game on TV and then fly home Monday and have to face the wife," Martin Luterman said. "That's the game we play."

Hank Franks from Steamboat Springs, Colo., arrived with his 12-year-old son, "and we were approached at valet parking, another 10 feet inside the door and at the elevators," he said. "It was crazy. It made me feel incredibly good that I had something these guys didn't have, and I know everybody has their price and I could be bought, but not a 12-year-old kid who wants to watch John Elway play."

Tell the kid it will be on TV--complete with replays of every interception.

The scalpers said their understanding is that it's legal to sell and buy tickets as long as the transaction does not take place at the stadium. Hotel management, however, traditionally makes it more difficult for them, limiting access to their building as the game approaches to registered guests.

"You a reporter? I'll give you any story you want for two tickets," said a scalper from Texas. "Whatever you want to hear."

The Super Bowl is all about money. The ball that's going to be used for the opening kickoff has already been auctioned off for $13,000. Richard Carey of New York bought the ball, which will be removed from the game after the opening kickoff. No word if Carey has a ticket for the game.

A ticket broker from Los Angeles traded two tickets to Friday night's Commissioner's Party at the Convention Center for two end zone game tickets.

"I hope he gets enough to eat at the party," the scalper said with a grin. "What a sweet deal."

Dion Rich, who has been crashing Super Bowls from the very start and who went so far as to work his way onto the field to be caught by a camera carrying Dallas Coach Tom Landry off on his shoulder, said he's not at liberty to say if he will be sneaking into this game.

"Even if I have a ticket I will try to sneak in just to stay in practice," Rich said. "It's like a golfer--two or three times a week he has to take his swings just to keep his game in shape."

Scalpers say "in the door" tickets, which means end zone and nosebleed seats, have hit the $2,000 mark each, while prime seats, between the 20-yard lines, could hit $3,500 each. Harold Gustafson from Phoenix asked a Los Angeles Times reporter to buy him a $275 ticket and he will be here Sunday to claim it. After doing the research for this story, Harold Gustafson might no longer have a ticket.

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