Ticket stubs another casualty of the digital age


Ticket stubs, once mementos of having attended a sports event, are becoming rarer, as digital tickets and other technologies replace the printed form. (Tracy A. Woodward/THE WASHINGTON POST)

I have a collection of framed memorabilia in my basement. On one wall is a copy of a Sports Illustrated cover advancing the 1991 NCAA championship game. It features former Kansas star Mark Randall and his autograph as well, alongside the headline “Can Kansas?” (The answer, sadly, was no. Duke won its first NCAA title in defeating the Jayhawks, 72-65.)

Framed with the cover is my big, colorful ticket stub to the game, dated April 1, 1991, with a photo of the Indianapolis skyline including the Hoosier Dome, site of the game.

I’m glad it’s framed. The ticket stub is going the way of the printed word: not completely vanishing but presented in digital form or — for those of us who still like to hold that piece of paper that says we can board a plane or get into an arena — available only in printable downloads.

There’s nothing wrong with being able to use your smartphone instead of a piece of paper — it’s environmentally sound, it eliminates the clutter in our lives, it’s harder for us to misplace. It just leaves you without that small piece of cardboard you used to tuck into drawers or pin to bulletin boards or paste into scrapbooks.

Of course, that’s assuming the technology works. The Caps and Wizards are using an electronic system this season — though you can still print your tickets — and depending on whom you talk to, it either was or wasn’t responsible for long lines at the Caps’ home opener. To be fair, even a cardboard ticket and a person who got paid to tear it isn’t foolproof when everyone tries to enter a building at the same time, as anyone who has tried to cut it close to kickoff at FedEx Field can attest.

A ticket stub is more than a souvenir. My national championship stub helps me remember that I watched the semifinal that year — when Kansas and Roy Williams beat North Carolina and ol’ Roy’s mentor and former Kansas player Dean Smith — in the Detroit Free Press sports department with fellow alumnus Gene Myers as we worked on the baseball preview section. After KU won that game, Gene turned to me and said, “Let’s go to Indy.” And like that — whoosh — we were gone.

Well, it wasn’t quite that simple. We drove to Indy on Monday afternoon, arrived at the Hoosier Dome in time to buy tickets from a sad Tar Heels fan, watched the game from our seats in aisle 139, row 33, jumped back in the car, drove all night to Detroit and went straight to work to finish the baseball section.

Just writing that paragraph made me tired, but back then, all-nighters were de rigueur for sports editors. Getting to see your alma mater in a national championship game was not. Getting to take a road trip with a college friend you’d worked with for a dozen years also was not. Sure, it would be a happier memory had Kansas won, but the trip and the game are something I’ll never forget, and I’ve never been one to pooh-pooh being the national runner-up. In some ways, that ticket stub has virtual properties: It’s a cardboard memory stick.

For previous columns by Tracee Hamilton, visit washingtonpost.com/
hamilton.

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