Joe Aleszczyk saw his chance and took it. As soon as officials announced that tickets would be available by mail for the Miami Dolphins-New Orleans Saints exhibition game at Memorial Stadium, he zipped off a card in the mail.
He said he followed all the directions and acted fast, not wanting to get stuck in, say, an upper-deck seat in the end zone.
Look for Mr. Aleszczyk on game day, way up in the upper deck. Row 35.
In the end zone.
He is one of the football fans who learned the hard way that acting fast was not necessarily the best way to get a seat for the Aug. 28 game, which Baltimore officials hope to sell out in an effort to boost the city's efforts to land an expansion team here.
Game organizers have been fielding complaints since the tickets started going out in the mail. They've been telling people they didn't want to give away all the good seats before the sales "officially" began tomorrow.
"We don't have any fat cats that are eating up the good seats," said Herbert J. Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority.
Organizers set aside a mix of good and not-so-good seats for fans who were expected to begin lining up tonight outside the stadium. Tickets will go on sale there and at other sites -- and by phone -- starting at 9 a.m. tomorrow.
"You can't give away all the good seats and then give the people who stood in line second draw," Mr. Belgrad said.
Game organizers did not want to sell any tickets by mail but felt compelled to when they were deluged with ticket requests after word of the game leaked out, Mr. Belgrad said. Fans were given an address, and 26,000 tickets were sold by the Dec. 31 cutoff for mail orders, he said.
The stadium holds about 58,000.
If this sounds a little like the confusion that surrounded the final Orioles game at Memorial Stadium -- when fans stood in line overnight only to have the game sell out largely with phone orders within minutes -- stay tuned. Mr. Belgrad predicts that may happen also.
Tickets will be sold by phone and at about 100 outlets, including the Baltimore Arena and Ticketmaster.
"I hope that everybody accepts that this is a community effort," Mr. Belgrad said.
Some fans aren't sure. Betty Loomis, a 20-year Colts season-ticket holder, plans to write the National Football League and recommend against Baltimore's selection for an expansion team.
"I'm so mad that I can't see straight," said Mrs. Loomis, who also acted fast but got end zone seats.