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Lesson #1 From the Final Four: Big Game, Easy Ticket

After George Mason lost to Florida Saturday night, my plans changed. Instead of sticking around Indianapolis for the national championship game Monday, I was heading home to Washington. Losers get outta town.

But first, I had to unload the two tickets I had to the big championship contest. Based on the prices I'd heard the scalpers bandying about on downtown Indy streets all day Saturday, I made all sorts of grandiose promises to my editor, RB the Sports Nut, who had scored Final Four tix for me when the good folks in Sports told us that they needed for themselves all 647 press credentials the NCAA had alloted for The Post. (Ok, it was around eight or so, but still.)

Anyway, as far as RB heard it from me, he was about to be rolling in dough, thanks to the Mason loss.

Then I hit the streets to unload the tickets. Me and about 20,000 other losers.

Instead of getting a premium on my $85 face tickets, I got bupkis. Tthe first 20 or so scalpers who approached me--the streets were literally thick with ticket hawkers, nearly all of them technically unemployed black men, yet another example of the ways in which we are wasting talent in this country, consigning guys who have strong business sense and entrepreneurial spirit to work the street--offered the grand total of $20. For the pair.

(Obligatory disclaimer: Yes, apparently scalping tickets is technically illegal in Indy. But you sure wouldn't know it from the hundreds of ticket dealers who swarmed the main intersections of the city's otherwise depressingly vacant little downtown all weekend.)

This wasn't what I'd been led to expect would happen. After all, Final Four tickets are among the toughest to obtain in all of sports. You have to win some sort of lottery to get them legitimately--either through the NCAA's public ticket lottery or by being a lucky student at one of the schools that gets to the big dance. And since those schools don't find out that they're in the Final Four until a few days before the event, the mad rush to score tickets pushes prices on the secondary market sky high. On Friday night, 24 hours before the Mason game, you had to pay a hefty premium to buy tickets on the street.

But as the dome empties out after the semi-finals, you suddenly have tens of thousands of tickets flooding the market for a game that is less than 24 hours off. And the contenders, in this case UCLA and Florida, are from schools that are so far away that it's extremely unlikely that anyone who isn't already in the championship venue city will be able to get there in time to see the final. Result: The bottom dropped out of the market.

The scalpers weren't happy. The losing ticketholders, suddenly eager to get home, were exasperated and miffed. And those lucky folks who did want to go to the championship game could do so for well under face value.

This is the free market at work, of course. For reasons that have more to do with taste and decorum than with any consistent sense of morality, scalping is illegal in some places, while it's perfectly ok in others. Economists tend to love sports scalping because it's about as pure a market as exists, and it's enormously fun to watch and track.

My bottom line: I ate the tickets. And I failed my editor, never a good thing. Now RB the Sports Nut has to find a compellingly persuasive way to portray this transaction on the corporate expense report.

But we learned something very important for future reference: If you love the college basketball, and don't have any special allegiance to a school that would make it essential that you be at the semi-finals, you can plan to go to the national championship game for next to nothing. Just station yourself outside the arena after the semi-finals. You'll have thousands of losers to choose from.

By Marc Fisher |  April 4, 2006; 7:31 AM ET
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Comments

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I think you mean 48 hours away.

Posted by: Andrew | April 4, 2006 8:47 AM

Mr. Fisher,

You “Washington Elite” always have to get a jab in on us poor little Midwesterners. I love the comment about our city in your commentary saying those scalpers who swarmed the main intersections of the city's otherwise depressingly vacant little downtown all weekend. Indianapolis has hosted some of the most elite sporting events time and time again with polish and a “can do attitude”. Something I don’t believe Washington DC could ever say about itself. I travel all over the country and when I return home to Indy, I am always proud to call it home. And by the way, scalping tickets is not illegal in Indianapolis except for the NCAA tournament which is a rule enforced by the NCAA not the city of Indianapolis. You might want to get your facts straight if you are going to report something. And the next time we host the Final Four in 2010 please feel free to stay home and we’ll have one less person in our vacant little downtown.

Posted by: Chris from Indy | April 4, 2006 9:25 AM

Chris, don't worry about the little jabs at Indy from this guy. I used to live in Washington, it has to be one of the worst cities in the country to live in. The people are completely insufferable and they're still working on that whole "street sign" and "pothole" thing.

It only makes it all the better that the jab at Indy comes in an article containing the astounding revelation that Final Four final game tickets can be had for pennies on the dollar after the semi-final games, as if every college basketball fan in the country didn't already know that. Tomorrow in the post.com -- the sky is blue!

Posted by: Dave | April 4, 2006 9:54 AM

I was born and raised in the shadow of the Nation's Captial, and the midwesterners are right -- the people here are increasingly insufferable, and the city really hasn't gotten its $#!% together despite bouncing a crackhead mayor and erecting loads of overpriced real estate for those feeding from the political trough and the American taxpayers. Mason's trip to the Phinal Phour was about the rise of the little guy, not the continued arrogance of Washingtonians who would otherwise scoff at a "commuter school." Rise up, Average Joe without DeLay!!!

Posted by: bigolpoofter | April 4, 2006 10:34 AM

I went to law school at GWU, and while I love DC, Indy is a hell of a city. To call the downtown anything other than hopping (and that goes for weekend's when we're not hosting the Final Four, Solheim Cup, Colts/Pacers games, or Indy 500) would be a bald faced lie, and you can ask most of the other visitors to our city what they think!!! There's a reason why the 5-star Conrad (Hilton) chain) opening in Indy recently (in addition to NYC and Miami). By the way, Mr. Journalist, you don't have one of those in DC, do you?

Posted by: Hoosier | April 4, 2006 11:10 AM

Hmmm . . . I wonder why Indianapolis' streets are paved with gold and has six lane highways crossing the state to get all the fans out there . . . could it be because the citizens of Indiana have political representation?

Don't criticize the administration of DC or the state of its infrastructure unless you have already called your Congressman to complain about how the city is treated by Congress. Don't criticize the "insufferable" people in DC until you bring home all your insufferable Indianans who come here to work for your insufferable Congressmen and Senators. I have never met a DC native who is insufferable, but I have met plenty of self-important people who come in from all over the rest of the country to tell us how things should be done . . . and then just feed from the "political trough." Remember, it's not the real DC residents who are screwing over the American taxpayer, it's the people the American taxpayers send here every 2, 4 or 6 years to represent them that are screwing them over. So I guess you're screwing over yourselves.

Talk about getting your facts straight before you write something.

Posted by: OD | April 4, 2006 11:11 AM

Nah, guys, here's the only stat that really counts: Indianapolis is home to the most beautiful women in America. Add to that all those reasonably priced fine restaurants at which you can wine and dine those beautiful women. I'm only an occasional visitor, but I look forward to each and every visit to Indy.

Posted by: Gene | April 4, 2006 11:18 AM

OD,

What are you talking about? Washington has pulled every Military installation from the state of Indiana and does very little to bolster our State coffers other than our share of what everyone seems to get. It has been the "get it done" attitude from our people and local politicians that benefits Indiana. We send all of about 40 people to Washington from Indiana and our represenation to Washington hardly screws the taxpayer. If you are complaining about the seat of Government being in your town and all the corruption that goes along with it then it sure sounds like your being "insufferable" to me. My only comment to Mr. Fisher was basically if you can't say something nice then don't say anything at all. The articel he wrote did not benefit from his derogatory comment on our city. It made him look petty and self righteous.

Posted by: Chris from Indy | April 4, 2006 11:20 AM

By the way, I have been to a number of Final Fours, and maybe you haven't, which explains your ignorance, but at EVERY Final Four tickets can be had on Saturdays after the losing teams head home. Just stand outside the stadium and Monday night's game can be had at a fair price. Course, you wouldn't know that, because DC hasn't hosted the Final Four as far as I can remember, and you're probably not even a basketball fan.

I think it should also be noted for those reading this thread that the Hoosier State rallied around George Mason (and their fans visiting from DC/VA), a true "Hoosiers" team. In fact, at the game, when GM was making a run (trying to get the lead below double digits), the place was electric. Too bad they played like crap on Saturday, but most people in Indiana wanted to see these underdogs, who were an amazing story, triumph here.

Maybe you should check in with some of the GM fans and see how they liked Indy...

Posted by: Hoosier | April 4, 2006 11:21 AM

I was born and raised in the suburbs of DC, but spent the last 4 years living in Bloomington while attending IU. While DC has its problems, and what major city does not, it is still a great place to live.
Likewise, College Park, which is about 10 minutes outside DC, hosted a Final Four about 40 years ago. Texas Western vs. Kentucky, does that ring a bell.

Posted by: DC is the best | April 4, 2006 11:41 AM

Are you people on crack? I go to Indy at least once a month and that town is dead and most definately does not have the hottest women in the country. This isn't a slam at Midwestern cities as Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Kansas City are among my favorite cities to spend time in. I'm sorry, but hosting the final four just doesn't make you a big city, particularly since the town is home to the headquarters of the NCAA. Honestly, Indy's downtown is about as hopping as Des Moines'.

Posted by: Chris, not from Indy | April 4, 2006 11:52 AM

Chris,

"Washington" has not pulled anything from Indiana. It is exactly this type of thinking that annoys me (and if taking offense to others' uninformed criticism of my hometown makes me insufferable, then every poster here is insufferable). The politicians that YOU elected to Congress are the ones that cast their votes to do or not do something. If there's any corruption here, it's YOUR representatives that are involved. "Inside the Beltway" is media shorthand for a description of our seat of government, but it allows Americans on the "outside" to think that nothing that happens here is their fault. It's all your fault - every single person that did or did not cast a vote in the last election is responsible for their representative's actions while here. That's how our democracy works.

Don't criticize me for what your representatives do. And I reiterate my point about DC: no resident of DC has representation, so you actually can NOT blame DC residents for anything the federal government does.

Posted by: OD | April 4, 2006 11:57 AM

How is elitist to stand outside an arena, look around, and report that downtown appears vacant and little? Either it is or it isn't. If it is, you have no right to criticize Marc for recognizing that fact, no matter how uncomfortable it is to hear about your beloved hometown. If it is not, he's just wrong, not elitist.

I'm going to go ahead and take Marc's word, by the way. I wouldn't be surprised if Indy's downtown was little and vacant. That's how most downtowns tend to be. That doesn't mean that they are incapable of hosting major sporting events periodically, and doing a good job, but it does mean that there's not a reliable, constant, vibrant night life in the small downtown area.

Posted by: Jimmy from DC | April 4, 2006 12:03 PM

Look, I'm not some hometown groupie who drank the kool-aid. I have lived in London, San Diego and DC. Indy is a very cool city. No, it's not NYC. But neither is DC, that is for sure. Again, I'm not trying to knock DC, because I love DC, but Marc's crack at Indy's downtown is just totally wrong, and I thought I'd point it out as someone who LIVES in downtown Indy and who attended the Final Four games this weekend.

But, for those who have never visited (or not visited in 10 years), it is really very vibrant, fun, convenient, etc. etc., and I would say most of my friends who come in from the coasts with "ideas" on what Indianapolis is like, leave impressed. I won't say that the women are the hottest around compared to CA or Miami, but, overall not too shabby! Indy has a thriving arts scene also, so it's not just sports...

I'll leave it at that and encourage anyone to visit before they start making assumptions/judgments...

Bye!

Posted by: Hoosier | April 4, 2006 12:30 PM

http://www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060404/LOCAL/60404025

...looks like the local paper, at least, is reporting out of town fans were ok with the place.

Posted by: Jim | April 4, 2006 12:37 PM

I spent a year in Indianapolis one week . . No!! The standard joke, folks. Every town sucks, except my hometown, and, come to think of it, it's not great either

Posted by: steve | April 4, 2006 1:01 PM

It isn't that Indy isn't NYC, it's that it isn't even Milwaukee or Kansas City. Like I said, I go to Indy all of the time and it is about as much fun as Des Moines. I'm not even doing this to bash Indy from DC perspective, I haven't lived in DC in 5 years, and most of my life I've lived in the midwest.

Posted by: Chris not from Indy | April 4, 2006 1:04 PM

OD,

" The politicians that YOU elected to Congress are the ones that cast their votes to do or not do something. If there's any corruption here, it's YOUR representatives that are involved. "

Um, no, that was Chris's point. DC has NO elected reps besides the window dressing of the shadow rep Norton. So DC residents have no say in Congress.

And for crying out loud people. I'm sure Indy, like DC, has some nice areas and bad ones. Can't we all just get along?

Posted by: Columbia | April 4, 2006 1:45 PM

The "technically unemployed black men" comment is lost on me. The attempt to seemingly clean it up with the follow-up "with strong business sense" and "entrepeneurial spirit" made no sense to me. Suggestion: next time, just call them "men", not black men, white men, Asian men, Anglo-Saxon men, Hispanic men, or men of color. Their race added no value to the description of the scenario and left me wondering why it was even mentioned in an otherwise entertaining article.

Posted by: IV | April 4, 2006 2:00 PM

Columbia,

Respectfully, I think you're mixing up our arguments. I don't see Chris from Indy saying "DC has NO elected reps besides the window dressing of the shadow rep Norton. So DC residents have no say in Congress." I was the one that was saying that.

My point was also that if you're going to complain about abstract "corruption" in DC politics, you are blaming people who hail from Indy, or Milwaukee, or Des Moines, (essentially yourselves), not people from DC. There is no "Washington" to "pull away military installations" from Indiana (or any other act of the federal govt) without the representatives of people from "outside the Beltway." Which ties into my comment about not blaming the residents of DC, because they don't have one of those representatives in Congress.

Posted by: OD | April 4, 2006 2:23 PM

chris not from indy, you are clearly smoking something if you think KC has more going on. or you're a really, really, big ribs lover.

Posted by: tres | April 4, 2006 2:24 PM

Everyone jumped down Marc's throat for being "elitist," but isn't a form of elitism to say that people who live in the Midwest are more authentic, or "real" Americans, or have a "can do attitude" that people in DC lack? Get off your high horse, middle America, you are as much a part of the problem with the federal govt as the govt bureaucrats who live and work here, devoting their professional lives to serving you. Stop blaming "Washington" and use some of that self-proclaimed Midwestern work ethic to help solve the problems, rather than just bemoaning the corruption (of the people you elect to come here and be corrupt).

Posted by: Jimmy from DC | April 4, 2006 2:25 PM

No, don't really like ribs, but I do like decent blues clubs and cities that don't have an inferiority complex about not being Chicago (which isn't just Indy, St. Louis has the same problem, only it has a touch more character than Indy, mostly due to its history).

Posted by: Chris not from Indy | April 4, 2006 2:44 PM

"Vacant" and "little" are relative terms. DC has a lot of action going on in its "downtown" area because of the constant weekend flow of tourists to meuseums and monuments. DC doesn't have the high-rise office buildings that typically make up US cities' downtown areas. Indy does. So Indy, just like every other "mid-major" city, seems vacant by comparison on a Sunday. And downtown Indy IS "little" when compared to the established "cities" of the East - NYC, Boston, Miami. Its history and zoning just make the downtown incomparable to DC, and little and vacant compared to some other major cities. But Indy's downtown is much like just about every other city in the US - I bet this guy would find a similar situation in Jacksonville, Houston, KC, etc - the list goes on and on.

As for the "black men" comment, I found it informative. 99% of the scalpers I've encountered (East Coast, West Coast, downtowns, suburbs) have been black. It's interesting to note that Indy is no different. The question to be examined is: why?

Posted by: Mugsy | April 4, 2006 3:27 PM

IV,

Do you really think that if all the scalpers had been Asian men that this wouldn't add to the scenario? So why is it different than saying they were all black? This little description establishes a great deal: that the demographics of the scalpers differed greatly from that of the ticket-buying population (most of whom shelled out hundreds of bucks for the tickets), that they were doing this as a business, that amateurs like him were out of luck.

Posted by: Marc-fan | April 4, 2006 4:04 PM

Mark, now sit back and watch the Maryland women in the NCAA championship tonight!

Posted by: Jill | April 4, 2006 5:51 PM


Oh, give me a break! As if Marc is the only person to ever take a jab at a boring Midwestern city. Get a life, Indy people!

Posted by: Georgetown | April 4, 2006 6:56 PM

GMU fan here - was in Indy over the weekend and thought it was great. Nice easy city to get around unlike DC and I was born in Maryland and raised in Virginia and still live in Virginia. Great places to eat and hang out. The locals were supportive, lots of people pulling for Mason. We were lucky to sell our floor seats for Mondays game for $500/pair - go figure!

Posted by: GMU Fan | April 4, 2006 8:59 PM

I was at the game in Indy with another Mason grad and we sold our seats for the UCLA/LSU game and the final game for $500. We also bought and sold our tickets to a couple of the many white scalpers.

One thing I will agree with Marc about is that staying in Indy for more than a weekend would get dull awful fast.

Posted by: Powerboater | April 6, 2006 7:53 AM

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