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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