|Inflation in Red Sox Nation|
By Darren Rovell
Editor's Note: The day of Super Bowl XXXVI, we sent ESPN.com sports business reporter Darren Rovell out on the streets of New Orleans to try to score a Super Bowl ticket for $100. After pulling it off, Rovell returned to Bristol boasting of his ticket buying savvy.
Seeking to humble him, Page 2 sent him to Boston for Game 3 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday. Yankees vs. Red Sox. Pedro vs. Roger. Tiny Fenway Park. Earlier in the week, standing room seats were going for $650. So we gave the cocky Rovell $200 to spend to see if he could get in. Here is his report.
1:27 p.m. -- I'm off to a bad start. I ran the Hartford Half Marathon this morning, and I'm still 30 minutes away from Fenway. That means I'll only have about an hour and half before game time to negotiate. Plus, I'm limping pretty badly from the run, which obviously won't help me if I need to get into a scrum and bid feverishly over a ticket. I'm not making any excuses. I will get a ticket to this game.
Scalping Rule No. 1: Give yourself enough time to learn the market. I've been to Fenway Park only three times and I've had a ticket every time. To get the ticket to the Super Bowl, I hung around the Superdome for almost four hours before kickoff.
Scalping Rule No. 2: Don't bring much more than you want to spend. If you do, you'll buckle too easily. Have your bank card ready and know where an ATM is if you feel you miscalculated the market and realize you'll have to pay more.
2:05 p.m. -- I park at 60 Kilmarnock Street in a small garage. Parking is only $40. What? Forty dollars for parking? "Hey man, it's Yankees-Red Sox and it's the playoffs; 40 bucks is a bah-gin," the attendant says. It's only a couple blocks from Fenway and I can't walk well, so I'm paying it. As I leave the garage, I ask the attendant what the rates are for other game days. He tells me that parking for a Yankees game during the regular season costs $30, and parking for other games is $15 to $20.
2:10 p.m. -- The line outside The Baseball Tavern bar on Boylston Street is about 80 people deep. On the line is 22-year-old Jim Daulton, who bought four tickets for $50 each on the Internet last week. He says it took an hour of his time.
2:19 p.m. -- I'm at the gates outside Yawkey Way. Apparently, they are only letting ticket holders on to the street in front of the park. That's not going to work. I tell one of the police officers I work for ESPN.com. He directs me to the media gate. But I, of course, don't have a credential for the game.
2:21 p.m. -- I start to survey fans on the line, asking them how they got their tickets. There are a lot of season ticket holders and some already-angry Yankees fans. I ask one Yankees fan how he got his tickets, revealing to him that I am a reporter. "Everyone's a reporter, dude," he says. "Ask questions about the game."
Scalping Rule No. 3: Ask other people who are looking for tickets or who have just purchased tickets from a scalper what the going rate is. Scalping is very subjective -- the price that you are being quoted could have to do with the way you are dressed or who you are with.
2:25 p.m. -- There's no way scalpers are coming near the park's entrance. There are tons of police officers around. I call my friend Ben, who went to Boston University and went to plenty of Red Sox games. He tells me to go to Kenmore Square and walk in the vicinity of the Pizzeria Uno.
Scalping Rule No. 4: If scalpers know a place where tourists are likely to go to shop for tickets, they'll make a better buck there. If you don't know where the experienced fans shop, ask someone who knows and you might save a couple hundred bucks.
2:29 p.m. -- On my way over to Kenmore Square, I practice my long stare. Making eye contact with scalpers is sometimes better than holding up a sign proclaiming your need for a ticket or holding up your index finger to indicate you need one.
Scalping Rule No. 5: Dress the part. If you want to go cheap, make sure you look cheap. If you are willing to spend a lot, dress a little nicer, but not so nice that the scalper feels like he can take advantage of you. Dressing the part cuts down negotiation time with the scalpers. I'm dressed in a t-shirt and jeans, telling the scalpers that I'm likely not paying more than $1,000 a seat.
2:34 p.m. -- As I walk by the Red Sox box office, I start to get a sense of how hard it is going to be to get a ticket for $200. I'm told that fans started a line before midnight on Friday for a chance to buy tickets for Saturday's game. The first couple hundred that arrived were offered two tickets each.
2:45 p.m. -- I arrive right across the street from the Pizzeria Uno on the property of Sovereign Bank. Perfect spot for scalpers -- an ATM is only a couple feet away. Ben was right on; there are at least 15 scalpers here and only two police officers, who aren't paying too much attention. Odds are they're probably talking about how Krispy Kreme has finally invaded Dunkin' Donuts' territory.
Scalping Rule No. 6: Scalpers come in all shapes and sizes, and their look often has to do with the city and the market. Look for men who are extremely active on their cell phones or pagers and seem to be circling in the same area. Scalpers normally aren't wearing any clothing with a team affiliation.
2:47 p.m. -- I'm hearing prices and I'm getting a bit more optimistic that I can do this. Box seats on the side of the Red Sox dugout are going for $900 apiece, a box seat 15 rows up on the third base line is going for $700 and standing room is down to $400. Prices have already been cut in half from earlier in the week. There's more than an hour to go; and, historically, prices drop the most in the hour before game time.
Scalping Rule No. 7: Once you've identified a scalping area, watch for a couple minutes. Try to find out who is part of a group of scalpers, and who is on their own. Those associated with a group are usually less willing to negotiate since they can afford to take more risks. Individuals are more likely to panic as it gets closer to game time.
2:53 p.m. -- I'm ready to go and survey the market for myself. I let it be known that I'm looking for tickets. A guy in a Kangol hat (definitely on his own) offers me a roof box seat for $800. "I don't really like roof boxes," I say, even though I have never even been to the roof. "How much are you willing to spend?" I don't answer. Never answer that question. Scalpers talk to scalpers; if they know you won't spend the money, they'll avoid you. I threaten to walk away from him twice; and within 20 seconds, I've been offered that roof seat for $500. Not bad, but I only have $208 in my pocket.
2:54 p.m. -- After I leave the Kangol scalper, two other scalpers approach me within a minute, again asking me how much I am willing to spend. One offers me a right-field box seat for $600. "It's a box, but it's in right field," I say. I've lowered him to $450, but he won't go any further and he doesn't have any other tickets for me.
Scalping Rule No. 8: Unless it's an unbelievable seat, always complain about what you are offered. It destroys the scalper's confidence and the price will plummet within seconds.
2:58 p.m. -- I'm starting to wonder if this system is genuine. I find out that the group in front of Sovereign Bank is basically a syndicate run by two men. The top dog is talking on his cell phone and is not selling any tickets. He is consulting with several of his sellers, and some fans who notice him ask him about helping them secure tickets for tomorrow. This is definitely the most powerful group of scalpers I've ever seen. Am I shocked? Of course not. Their gift is that they sell to a large fan base and have the advantage of a ballpark with less than 34,000 seats. They've probably scalped at least 100 tickets today. I'm concerned that they are willing to hang on to today's tickets in order to keep the market up for the games on Sunday and Monday.
Scalping Rule No. 9: As it gets closer to game time, both fans without tickets and scalpers with tickets start to panic. In most situations, there are more tickets than fans who want them, but most fans don't know this because they are already in the stadium or arena.
3:20 p.m. -- It looks like panic has set in on the individual scalpers. Two standing-room tickets go for just under $400 apiece. I take out my wallet and hold the $200 in my hand ready for a quick transaction.
Scalping Rule No. 10: Scalpers love to see the money. If you feel you're close to a deal, show them the money in your hand. It will work to your advantage over a guy who keeps the money in his wallet in his pants.
3:25 p.m. -- The moment has come. I'm in a group of three willing ticket buyers. A guy says he has two bleacher seats "six rows a pat." I'm at a disadvantage because I only need one. I'm also at a disadvantage because I'm not sure what he just said. While I'm in my state of confusion, I lose out. One of the guys buys the two for $400. A couple minutes later, I realize that the guy was saying, with a thick Boston accent, that the seats were six rows apart. D'oh! I hope I see $200 again, but it looks like there's going to be a lot of competition.
3:36 p.m. -- Prices aren't really lowering among the syndicate sellers. Still around $600 for a box seat, $325 for a seat higher up. A bigger problem is that fans who need tickets aren't going away. One guy I meet looking for a ticket tells me he waited until the last minute to get a ticket for a 1999 playoff game between the Sox and the Yanks, and only paid double face value.
4:00 p.m. -- I hear the roar of the crowd and the disappointment sets in. I'm not getting in. So I take the scalper's advice and head for the bars.
4:08 p.m. -- I'm not getting into any bars, either. The lines are more than 100 people deep for Cask N' Flagon and Copperfield's on Brookline Avenue. I've never seen anything like this. There's no way that most of these people will even get into the bar by the time the game ends.
4:09 p.m. -- No ticket. No bar. All I want to do now is go to the bathroom and listen to the game on the radio as I drive back to Bristol. But I have a major issue. Almost all the bathrooms are in the bars. I ask the bouncer at Copperfield's where I can find the nearest bathroom. "Go to that alley, drop your pants and take a piss." Right, I've asked Page 2 to float me $200 for a ticket. Now, conveniently enough, if I violate Massachusetts Statute 272 Sec. 53 (indecent exposure), I can be charged up to $200. Of course, ESPN.com might not be too pleased about the possibility that I could spend a maximum of six months in jail.
4:12 p.m. -- Luckily, I find an Italian restaurant that has a bathroom. Feeling guilty, I say I'll take a slice of pizza. They only make pies. What Italian restaurant only makes pies? OK, I don't feel that bad that I used their bathroom.
4:15 p.m. -- I check back on the line in front of the box office. Standing at the front of the line are Mike Weir (no, not the 2003 Masters champion), Cameron Wheeler and Jason Kelly, who arrived at 5 a.m. on Saturday. They are ready to give up, losing hope that a Red Sox official will open the door and allow them to buy tickets.
4:21 p.m. -- I'm back at the parking garage and the first inning has just ended with the Red Sox up 2-0. In an effort to get some money back from the exorbitant parking expense, I tell the guy that I wasn't happy with my seat and the Red Sox refunded my money. "So do you think you can give me some money back?" I ask. "No, it's OK," he says. Yeah, I'm sure it's OK. I just paid a career-high 30 cents a minute to park!
Scalping Rule No. 11: If you want to get a ticket to Game 3 of the ALCS at Fenway Park and it's Red Sox vs. Yankees and Pedro vs. Roger, tell your editors it'll cost them at least $400.
Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at Darren.Rovell@espn3.com.