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Selling points

The Baltimore Sun

The Internet has had a lot of unexpected impact on countless ways we live our lives. Among them is how much we pay to attend sports events. If you haven't noticed, it's a lot more. The Super Bowl, of course, magnifies everything. The stakes are enormous for the teams and players participating. Drawing and holding an audience is huge for the television network broadcasting the game. Advertisers put their creative reputations on the line, vying for who can come up with the commercial that can create the most water-cooler buzz.

And because it is American sports' biggest stage, the issue of ticket prices is more prominent than for any other event on the sports calendar.

An Associated Press story about the Internet and tickets for the big game described how some folks were paying about $10,000 each for transportation, lodging and tickets to this year's Super Bowl in suburban Phoenix. (I laughed when I read that breakfast is included; those must be some croissants.)

Obviously, this Super Bowl is the proverbial perfect storm because the New England Patriots are trying to cap a perfect season and the underdog opponent is from New York. But even though those circumstances are driving demand, what can't be ignored is that the fluid nature of Internet commerce has made tickets to popular events assets that are incredibly liquid in a marketplace where anyone who has the dough can make the decision to go instantly.

But there is an additional interesting facet to the reselling - scalping, as it used to be called - of Super Bowl tickets. Historically, as the game draws closer, the prices for tickets go down. Why? For one thing, the buyer has to get to the site of the game, and as you get closer - four days, three days, two days - the task of getting airfare and a hotel gets more daunting, which exerts a downward pressure on tickets.

Now, let's take the ticking clock down from days to hours or even to minutes. I've been fortunate enough to cover five Super Bowls, and at just about every one of them, I saw scalpers on game day in the hotel lobby or on the street trying to get rid of tickets at just about face value as the actual kickoff drew closer.

Before the San Francisco 49ers- Denver Broncos Super Bowl in New Orleans 18 years ago, my father-in-law, who had no intention of going to the game, bought a ticket from a woman for $25 because she decided at the last minute to stay at the Hyatt near the Superdome and watch the game on TV. The only thing Ned missed was the opening kickoff.

Do I think there will be any $25 tickets available in Glendale, Ariz., this weekend? Probably not. But even a spokesman for Internet ticket middleman StubHub said the press of time has an effect on ticket prices. After all, it's a product with a definite expiration.

This year, resellers will be able to set up shop in a parking lot just a short walk from the new stadium. For those who are willing to eschew the security of knowing they have a ticket in advance and are willing to engage in some ticket brinkmanship, they might be able to score a seat at just a little more than face value - maybe even at face value.

Oh, and that would be $700 to $900.


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