Atlanta.--Sunday morning in my hotel lobby I was approached by more than 20 people offering as much as $3,000 for a pair of tickets to the Super Bowl game.
Sadly, I had given my extras away and had nary a ticket to sell to the men in broad hats and studded boots -- guys who looked like high rollers. "Sorry" was all I could say to the lawyers and bankers and small businessmen from Buffalo, Rochester and other New York towns who just had to see the Buffalo Bills erase the stigma of being automatic losers in the great football extravaganza.
Considering the results of the game I'm glad I didn't sell anyone a ticket. The buyer might now be looking for me with a shotgun.
But I learned a lot about America during my brief conversations with the people who were "just dying" to see the game. All but one railed against "Clinton's tax increase." One told me that "for once the Washington lobbyists are right, and they're gonna block Clinton's health-care plan."
"I think Clinton's going better now that he's pushing welfare reform," said a woman wearing cowgirl pants that were so tight they must have cut off her circulation before halftime.
I became shamefully aware that while the Super Bowl is probably the premier sports spectacular in America, and a dazzling monument to smart promotion, hype and hoopla, it is also a terrible commentary on the affluent people of America. Some who would fight to avoid giving an extra dime to aid the poor, improve education, reduce the budget deficit, thought nothing of offering $1,500 for a ticket that at $175 was pigskin robbery.
America really has become a place where rich people spend small fortunes to "influence" friends, neighbors, competitors, or simply to indulge their most exorbitant yearnings for pleasure. But heaven forbid asking them to pay for any social program -- even those designed to protect the properties of the people with the most to protect.
While watching the mob that descended upon this city, I got a great idea. If the high rollers will pay a premium of 750 percent or more to buy a single Super Bowl ticket, why not make the government the greatest scalper of them all by putting a 750 percent tax on Super Bowl tickets? The same for ducats to the World Series, the Olympics, college basketball's Final Four, the football Bowl games -- any ticket that is so much in desire that people will pay crazy prices for one.
It was established long ago that government can get away with imposing exorbitant "sin" taxes on whiskey, tobacco and occasionally on yachts and fancy cars. Well, the people who approached me Sunday wanted a Super Bowl ticket more than they ever wanted a bottle of Jack Daniels or a carton of Marlboros.
So why not use the sports addiction to raise money for hospitals and public schools? I mean, why not?
Carl T. Rowan is a syndicated columnist.