The advertisement in the sports section says the Bullets are "the hottest ticket in town."

Hah-hah, ho-ho.

Giggle, giggle

Sorry about that, but great comedy puts me on the floor every time.

The Redskins and Capitals are vacationing, the Diplomats play a game still foreign to most adults and the Senators, bless 'em, are seven years dead.

No wonder the Bullets are the hottest ticket in town. What are we going to do, pay to see Sen. Proxmire jog to work?

In 41 regular-season home games this year, the tickets weren't so hot. The Bullets had exactly zero sellouts. Of 22 NBA teams, the Bullets ranked 14th in attendance.

But now, in the playoffs, the Bullets are playing well and they've had four straight sellouts.

So the front-office people have decided it is time top rip off the customers.

You don't make money in pro sports without ripping off the customers and the Bullets are wasting no time taking advantage of the hottest ticket in town.

In that ad, they said fans could buy tickets for all playoff games.

But there was a catch.

To buy those tickets, a fan had to deposit $50 on a season ticket for next year.

Smooth, huh? In pro sports, this is called good business. In other lines of work, it is ripping off the customer.The NFL has perfected the technique, by the way. To qualify for the privilege of spending a tall pile of money for L.A. Rams' season tickets this year, a customer must buy a ticket to the Pro Bowl.

Anyway, a Bullets bigwigs went on television the other night and seemed to say 2,000 tickets were available if you promised to buy next year's season tickets.

This gets a little complicated. But here's what Jerry Sachs, Bullets executive vice president, said on TV during halftime fo the Wednesday game in Philadelphia . . .

"We have held back some tickets for (the) next playoff game or any future playoff games. Anyone who is turned on by the Bullets, by the play they had against Atlanta, San Antonio and the 76ers, if they want to come out and see the Bullets play next year, come down and talk to us, give us a $50 deposit. We will have excellent seats for the remaining playoff games awaiting them."

Then an interviewer asked Sachs how many tickets were available for the next game - last night's at Capital Centre - and Sachs said there were about 2,000.

A lot of people heard Sachs and thought they understood him. They thought he was saying the Bullets "held back" about 2,000 tickets for last night's game to sell to those people willing to pay $50 down on a season ticket. A lot of people thought that was what he said.

We pause now. You are invited to reread Sach's words. A lot of people called The Washington Post, the Bullets and WDCA-TV to complain that the Bullets were intentionally holding back 2,000 tickets in order to sell season tickets for next year.

There's a good reason for believing the Bullets did that. The reason is that Jerry Sachs said it.

But yesterday he was saying he didn't mean it. He said he was talking about a minimal number of tickets when he mentioned the $50 deal, - "20 or 30," he said. Another Capital Centre official said these few tickets were separate from the 2,000 tickets available to the standing-in-line customers.

Meanwhile, the Bullets announced there would be no local television last night because the game was not sold out soon enough.

Phones started to ring.

A lot of people were steamed. They heard Sachs say the Bullets "held back" 2,000 tickets. They wanted to know how there could possibly be an early sellout if the Bullets "held back" all those tickets. It seemed the Bullets were arranging it so the game wouldn't be televised unless fans came up with $50 deposits for next year's season tickets.

A public relations disaster, it is compounded by the Bullets' pitifully weak explanation of the TV blackout in the first place.

They said televising the game would be unfair to the paying customer.

Bullfeathers. Any fan worth his sneakers is going to be at a championship playoff game, and if the Bullets have no more faith in their product than that, small wonder they feel a need to hit fans in the head with a $50 club when the tickets are the hottest. They should have seized the moment to spread the happy word of success any way they could, most especially by TV.

The Bullets finally compromised on TV. Because Sachs so botched that halftime interview, infuriating so many fans, the Bullets allowed last night's game to be taped and shown on a delayed basis starting an hour and a half late.

Nice of them.