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Their loyalty to a team can be bought, if price is right

March 15, 2007|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

Go (YOUR SCHOOL)!

You stink, (YOUR SCHOOL'S OPPONENT)!

In the latest evidence March Madness is more than a promotional slogan, two college basketball fans are selling their rooting services on EBay.

They have tickets to this week's first-round NCAA tournament games in Columbus, Ohio -- among them Long Beach State versus Tennessee on Friday -- and are offering their allegiances to the school of the highest bidder.

"At your option, we will wear tasteful apparel showing our support for your team," they say in the posting. "We will cheer loudly throughout the game."

The rent-a-fans are named Jerry and Doug -- they say they'll provide their full identity to the winning bidder -- and are in their mid-40s. Jerry is part-owner of a software company; Doug is a financial executive of the large company that provided them with the seats. The two will be sitting with that company's chief executive, who doesn't know about the auctions.

Regardless, these two aren't shy about showing their moxie by proxy. Calling themselves "The Original Mercenary Fans," they promise to send the winning bidders photographic evidence of them cheering.

"If you choose to have us wear apparel, you must provide tasteful apparel for the seller to wear at the game," their ad reads. "Tasteful is subject to our interpretation ... so, as an example, girls' panties with your school's logo would be considered not tasteful ...

"We expect the apparel to be returned to you with normal wear, although no guarantees are made (i.e. there could be a mustard stain or other damage!)"

Steve Janisch, Long Beach State's sports information director, said he doesn't intend to bid on Jerry and Doug but will outfit them in school T-shirts if they wind up rooting for the 49ers.

"We're pretty close to Tennessee here, so we're expecting to see a lot of orange," Janisch said. "We'll take every fan we can get."

Said Bud Ford, Janisch's counterpart at Tennessee: "Maybe we could have used them a few years ago when we played in Sacramento. We won't be short on Tennessee folks this time around."

Actually, Jerry and Doug are Miami of Ohio alumni and, much to their disappointment, won't be on hand Friday to watch the RedHawks play Oregon on the other side of the country.

"If there's somebody in Spokane who wants to do a trade-off -- they'll root for my team, I'll root for theirs -- I'd love to do that," Jerry said. "But we're going to these four games and we don't really care about the winner. I guess the only reason you'd care is if you had those teams in your office bracket. So we thought, 'We've got to make this a little bit fun.' "

They wouldn't mind making a little money, either. Jerry said they'd go wild for $100, and paint casino names on their faces for $1,000.

So far, competing casinos can breathe easy. As of Wednesday evening, two of the auctions had yet to attract a bid, and the other two had bids of one cent each.

"For a penny," Jerry said, "we'll just show some mild support."

But a guy can dream, can't he?

"You never know if this is the next Pet Rock," he said. "I have this vision where we'll go to Super Bowls and major events around the country, getting paid to do it. That sounds like a good gig to me."

sam.farmer@latimes.com

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