A group of die-hard 49ers fans thought all their dreams were coming true. They were scouring the internet for pseudo-affordable tickets to watch their team take on the Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII this Sunday in New Orleans. With most resale tickets going for about $3000, which is double face value, it seemed like all hope was lost. That is until they found a seller on Craigslist willing to offer them four tickets for a little less than $6,000. He claimed he could no longer go because his wife was too late in her pregnancy to travel. They spoke with him on the phone several times. He seemed legit. He said all they had to do was wire him the money and he’d ship them the tickets. So they did. And in return, they received an envelope with the words “Go Ravens” written all over it, along with a photo of Ravens QB Joe Flacco and 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick. They hadn’t just been scammed. Their noses were being rubbed in it, too.
Upon reading their story, your first inclination is to blame the victims. After all, who just believes whatever they hear from some dude they met on the internet…well, other than Manti Te’o? Craigslist even warns against wire transactions. There were steps they could have taken to protect themselves in that transaction. So yes, it’s true that they are primarily in this predicament due to their own lack of due diligence. But what also strikes me is the desperate lengths fans have to go through now to even flirt with the idea of going to a Super Bowl to support their team. This celebration that used to be the ultimate pay-off for the die-hard has evolved into a corporate monster, a monster who dictates you’d better be rich, lucky or well-connected if you even want to think about taking part.
Back in 2009 when my beloved New Orleans Saints got a shot at the big dance, I knew there was no other place I could be than in those stands in Miami watching them make history. I was willing to pay for it, too. Thankfully, I had a sensible boyfriend who advised me to curb my enthusiasm and not donate my 401k to some seller on Stub Hub just for the assurances of getting a real ticket. He believed that the best way to play the game would be to wait it out until sellers got desperate and the prices dropped, even if that meant going to Miami without a ticket and attempting to buy one on game day. Meanwhile, I knew at least two people with personal ties to NFL players. I figured that since I had worked with them and even helped them out in the past, they would make a reasonable offer to sell their tickets. After all, they knew I was a real fan and they knew I didn’t have tons of money. And, they knew I knew the seller was an NFL player and therefore DID have tons of money. But I failed to factor in the allure of capitalism. They were quoting me prices that made the offers on Stub Hub look like bargains. Bleeding black and gold couldn’t compare with their quest for green.
In the meantime, a friend suggested I sign up for a contest on The Ellen Show. She said Ellen always sends a die-hard fan of each team to the game. Maybe I could be one of them? It seemed like the longest of long shots, but hey. What did I have to lose? So I wrote an essay about my love for the game and even shot a video showing off my ridiculous stash of Saints merchandise. Low and behold, I got the call. I would be competing for a ticket on TV! Once there, I had to joust, (yes joust) my way to a ticket to watch the Saints take on the Colts in Miami. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Meanwhile, my boyfriend went to Miami and as he expected, he was able to score face value tickets on the lower level by making a deal with a scalper a few minutes before kickoff. He said he saw other fans out there with the same plan who weren’t so lucky. And there were other friends of mine who went to the Super Bowl. But they had to pay to play. Their nose-bleed seats cost them about $2000 each. So essentially for my friends, watching the team we loved for years came down to two factors: money and luck.
But is that how it should be? Does it make sense that someone who knows someone who knows someone on the board at Pepsi has a better shot at watching two teams he or she could give a crap about in the Super Bowl than fans who have loyally supported their teams for decades? Isn’t it a little weird that the average American has a better shot at attending a Super Bowl by jousting someone on national TV than by actually just buying a ticket at face value?
So how did we get here? Well, each year, both teams get a small allotment of Super Bowl tickets which are then made available to season ticket holders and typically sold at face value via a lottery system. A small number of tickets are made available to the general public through a random drawing. These tickets usually end up on Stub Hub going for 3 times the normal amount. The rest of the tickets go to players and NFL staffers and corporate sponsors. These tickets often also end up getting resold. So it all ends up boiling down to supply and demand. Since such a small amount of tickets are made available to fans, the demand drives prices through the roof.
Back in the 60s, a Super Bowl ticket cost $12. While the cost of the average home is now only 10 times more expensive than it was back then, the cost of a Super Bowl ticket is 100 times more pricey. It all just seems so unfair. We fans can only hope that one day our beloved game and corporate greed will no longer go hand in hand. Maybe one day the league will take a serious look at how fans are being shut out of the very sport they helped to make so popular worldwide. Or maybe it will take us fans getting a grip and refusing to fork over the cost of a used Hyundai to be part of the action.