They have been antagonists for more than a decade, the commissioner of the National Football League and the man who runs the players association. But when you ask union leader Ed Garvey if he believes that Pete Rozelle is any way involved in scalping Super Bowl tickets, a mock look of horror spreads across his face.
"Somehow," he says, "I just can't see Pete hawking tickets on the street in front of the Sonesta Hotel. Now, that's not to say he won't use his tickets to spread a lot of good will, particulary through the Congress. But Pete Rozelle a scalper? Out of the question."
Still, when Oakland's maverick, Al Davis the team's managing general partner, said in a pretrial deposition taken in conjunction with his antitrust suit against the NFL that Rozelle and other league hotshots were involved in scalping, lots of people -- including the Internal Revenue Service -- began to take serious notice.
There are 75,500 seats available in the New Orleans Superdome for Sunday's Super Bowl game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Oakland Raiders. Heaven only knows how many of the people occupying those chairs paid face value -- $40 per ticket -- for the game.
This week for example, a telephone call to the bellman at media headquarters in the Hyatt Regency Hotel produced the following conversation:
Reporter: I need two tickets for the game."
Bellman: I got a guy with a pair for $400 standin' right next to me. I'll send him right up."
Reporter: "What are my chances of getting them cheaper?"
Bellman: "By Sunday, you'll be able to walk through the lobby and guys will beg ya' to take 'em for face value. That's if you wanna' risk it."
All across America, however, thousands of people do not want to take that risk. They will make the Super Bowl the highlight of a fourday weekend reveling in the streets, dining at sumptuous restaurants and boogeying at posh parties that make the Inaugural balls look like down-home howdowns. Clearly, you don't come to town without a ticket.
NFL gives 16,425 tickets each to the Eagles and Raiders. The Eagles sold about 12,000 to their season-ticket subscribers, with a maximum of 10 to a customer. The Raiders sold 10,000 to their regular-season ticket-holders, with a maximum of six. The rest of the teams' allotments go to the staff, advertisers, travel agencies and the players.
Every Eagle player received two free tickets, and could purchase 18 more. The Raiders gave two comps, and allowed players to buy 28 each. All of the players took the full number available, some for relatives and friends coming to the game, and some to make a quick buck in the open market.
"I have no evidence of any of our players doing it," says Eagle ticket manager Hugh Ortman. "But then again, I'm not stupid, either. I do have a signed sheet of paper from every employe, staff or player, that they will not resell the tickets at a profit, but who knows?"
Another 7,300 tickets are given to the host team, the Saints, and 2,500 more to owners of Superdome sky suites. Every other NFL team gets 876, with each NFL player allowed to buy at least two at face value.
Teams also use their tickets to reward faithful advertisers, car dealers who provide courtesy automobiles and the like. The rest are sold to the public after the owner and staff get a crack.
"I'd say I could probably have sold 1,200 to 1,500 in Washington," says George Christophel, Redskin ticket manager. "The largest bloc I sold was 10 tickets. Oh, sure, I had larger requests, and I've had some very large offers. But I like to keep my job. My answers is no. Hell no.""
The remainder of the 11,000 tickets go to the NFL office. They provide tickets to the media, to the networks, to their faithful advetisers, to their office personnel, to representatives of their various subsidiaries -- NFL Films, NFL Charities, NFL Properties and on and on.
So who is in town for the Super Bowl this week?
"We had people coming into our office paying for their Super Bowl tickets with their welfare and Social Security checks," says Ortman of the Eagles. One of his assistants tells a story about a priest buying a pair and offering the man a place in the seminary if he couldn't find a hotel room. "He said he'd even throw in a clerical collar if that would help us out."
Certainly the game is attracting scads of high rollers, not only from the participating cities, but from all across America.
A number of companies use Super Bowl tickets as sales incentives for employees. Sell 1,000 K-cars, get a Super Bowl ticket. Push a million in life insurance, you're on the 50. Perfectly legitimate, the American Way.
So, too, is profiteering, and that quickly became apparent in Philadelphia the day after the Eagles beat the Cowboys and earned the right to play in the team's first Super Bowl.
Super Bowl Tickets Wanted, Top $ Paid," was the typical message. Most of the people paying top dollar were either ticket brokers or travel agencies, like The United States Travel Agency, operating out of 1730 K St. NW. Washington, D.C.
Bill Bell of Fairfax, the president of the agency, has spent the last two weeks in Philadelphia, first buying tickets from anyone who responded to his advertisement, usually at about $150 a ticket. Bell runs package deals under the East Coast Parlor Car logo. Parlor Car is a fancy name for bus, although his firm also had two airplane packages as well.
In two weeks, Bell signed up 550 people for plane charters and 350 for bus rides. Most of the people who pay for the tours have Super Bowl tickets, but Bell also had to come up with 350 tickets for people who did not have a seat in the Dome.
"We bought about 150 tickets from fans who got them from the Eagles but couldn't go, or wanted to make a few extra dollars," Bell said. "The rest we got from brokers. No, we don't go after the players at all, unless they'd happen to respond to our ad. How do the brokers get them? Quite frankly, I don't know, and I don't want to know.
"We also tell anyone who does not have a ticket that if we can't get them one, we will refund their money in full. Yes, they'd be disappointed, but they'd feel a lot better hearing about it in Philadelphia than they would in New Orleans.
"We're a very reputable firm, in business since 1945. We have an excellent reputation, and it's totally legitimate. We even checked with the authorities in Philadelphia to make sure we could put our ads in the paper and pay for the tickets."
Friday afternoon was a busy day in another area for Super Bowl scalpers, according to a man from Kentucky who is known to his friends as Ducksy, a synonym for Ducat. Ducksy was complaining that he had a harder time rounding up tickets to the Super Bowl media Friday night for a dozen friends than in obtaining tickets for the game itself.
"I just now got the last one," he said. "Had to pay $50 apiece. My people are paying me $150 a ticket. It is the damnest thing. They didn't even want to go until they found out how hard it was to get the tickets."
Ducksy wasn't about to talk about his business, but he said he had seen a number of his friends, Duke from Chicago, Whitey from Detroit, and other scalpers milling around the lobby. "Yeah, we meet at the game every year," he said, "it's our scalpers' convention."
How the ticket brokers get their seats to the game is another story, and one that most ticket brokers won't tell you. "It's none of your business," said the man at Glassmans Ticket Agency at 13th and Locust in downtown Philadelphia. "If somebody walked in here right now, I could take care of him. That's all I'll tell you."
The man at Murray's Ticket Agency in Los Angeles, which bills itself as the world's largest broker, also declined to talk about his source of tickets. "People come in, they sell and we buy. Right now (Thursday afternoon) I can sell you a ticket for $150 in the end zone and $500 on the 50." Sports Illustrated this week reported that Murray's bought and sold 6,000 Super Bowl tickets to last year's game in the Rose Bowl.
A telephone call to another number in a New Orleans paper Thursday rang at the Trip Ticket Agency in San Diego. Keith Goodman, who works at the agency, said he had just returned from seven days in New Orleans, where he bought 40 tickets at prices ranging from $60 to $150.
"We'll charge our people from $100 to $250 a ticket," says Goodman, who operates in a state that allows scalping, as long as it's not at the site of the game. "Tell you the truth, we just got into it this year for the first time. We sent people to Oakland and Philly and got about 200 tickets total. We won't make very much on it, but I had a great time in New Orleans, I can tell you that."
Still, not everyone is enjoying all the attention being focused on the sale of Super Bowl tickets. Harold Guiver, the New Orleans Saints assistant general manager, has been mentioned in Davis' deposition and in stories in several national publications as a man who has dabbled in dispensing tickets.
Reached this week by telephone, Guiver said, "I have nothing further to say to you or anyone else about tickets. I will not talk about tickets, period."
Players also are reluctant to talk much about tickets, although several said that they had been warned by their respective clubs about the illegality of selling their Super Bowl tickets to anyone at more than face value.
Last week, the Los Angeles Times reported that some ticket brokers had recruited a network of captains around the NFL to purchase spare Super Bowl tickets from other players to feed the demand around the country.
"I don't know of anyone on our team who's done that," said Raider tight end Raymond Chester. "I'm sure some guys try and make a few extra dollars on the side, but it's no organized thing. Me, my tickets are spoken for. Friends, relatives, business associates. I know I'm coming up with a lot of long lost relatives, too."
Rozelle, who has issued a series of strict guidelines for teams to follow in dispersing their allotment of tickets, also is telling everyone who will listen that Davis' scalping charges are absurd.
He also said, in an interview published Thursday in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, "There is no way of stopping the scalping of tickets. I think that people can talk about it all they want. But the problem is after they're allocated, there is no way of controlling the resale of the ticket.
"Regardless of where they go, they can pass through several hands after the distribution and we have no way of knowing where they are going to."
Adds Eagles ticket manager Ortman: "There's no question that it's going on, and that people are willing to pay a lot of money for a ticket. But it's also ironic. The people who stay at home and watch on television get the best seat in the house. And they get it free." CAPTION:
Picture, Aglow like an oversized spaceship, the Superdome -- site of today's Super Bowl game -- dominates the New Orleans skyline at twilight. UPI