So, bunky, you need a spot to stay while you're in San Diego for the Super Bowl? You've already got seats, courtesy of Murray's Tickets in Los Angeles -- $1,500 a pop, right on the 40-yard line. The airlines have your $800 round-trip flight. Now for suitable digs.
How about a nice little seven-bedroom mansion downtown, with seven baths, a Jacuzzi, swimming pool, lighted tennis court and two acres in one of the choicest locations in one of America's most expensive cities?
The nice thing about this place, you won't bump your head on the door jamb. It's Boston Celtics center Bill Walton's estate, up for rent through an agent for four nights and five days at the neat package price of $20,000. Personal check? No problem.
It's football madness again, and greenbacks are on the wing. One diehard Redskins fan, a season ticket-holder for 31 years, got lucky in the local Super Bowl lottery last week and came up with four Super Bowl tickets at face value, $100 each. At least he thought he was lucky.
Then he started looking at real costs. "There's no discount airfares left," he said. "I guess the travel agencies booked those right away. It's almost impossible to get in and out of San Diego on your own. The hotels want four nights minimum and the rates are way up. I'm looking at the paper and the agencies have these package deals at $1,400 for hotel, breakfast and air fare, but you still have to provide the tickets.
"Let's see, that's going to be $2,000 apiece for me and my wife for a long weekend and a football game. I don't know if I can handle that."
He might sell his tickets, but he doesn't even know where the seats are yet, since the Redskins won't give them out until today. Still, sight unseen, over the phone, a scalper offered him $500 apiece.
"But don't put my name in the paper," he said, paranoia creeping in. "If the Redskins hear I'm thinking of selling, they might take my season tickets away."
All around Washington, ticket fever is mounting. The "tickets for sale" and "tickets wanted" sections of the classified ads in the newspaper have swelled to five columns. A wrong number appeared in one ad Tuesday and Time-Life Books was deluged with pleas for ducats. "The phone has been ringing all day," said the harried operator.
Redskins season ticket-holder Richard Ayoub received two tickets in the lottery but decided he couldn't afford to go. His classified ad ran under tickets for sale and he left a house guest home to take calls. By midafternoon she was running out of paper and patience. "I'm in the wrong place at the wrong time," she said. "I'm not coming here again next year."
Ayoub is hoping to get $800 apiece for the seats, maybe more, depending on location. It's a nice little present from the Redskins, he said, and "it's just as comfortable and nice to sit home and watch it on TV."
The mad rush for tickets is partly a result of the fact seats for the big game were dispensed nationally under a byzantine patronage system devised by the National Football League, which left none for public sale. The breakdown of the 68,000 places in Jack Murphy Stadium went this way:
Redskins and Broncos, exactly 20 percent (about 13,600 each); Chargers (the host team), 10 percent; the NFL 20 percent and each of the other 25 NFL teams, just over one percent apiece.
Each team did with its allotment as it saw fit, which left entrepreneurs scrambling in a variety of ways. "The brokers, scalpers, whatever you call them are having a field day," said Les Land, executive director of the San Diego Super Bowl Task Force.
In fact, they offered Land $1,000 for his two tickets before he got out the door after picking them up. But his daughter already had spoken for them, to auction off for the local YMCA.
All tickets carry the same face value of $100 under NFL rules, but the scalpers naturally rate them by desirability. At the moment, top price for the choicest seats is $2,500 and the worst end-zone spots are drawing $700, according to Kenny Solky at Murray's, one of the oldest ticket brokers in California. That's up from last year, when the range was $400-$1,700.
The reason? "There's two reasons, which is really just one reason," Solky said. "It's supply and demand. Last year at the Rose Bowl there were 100,000-plus seats, so there was a bigger supply. And the Super Bowl gets bigger every year, so the demand is always going up."
Where do the big-time dealers like Murray's, which expects to handle 3,000 to 5,000 seats before it's over, get their tickets? That's top secret.
"All I can say," said Gina Laboy of Spectacular Sports Specials in New Orleans, "is that Vince has contacts."
Vince is her boss, former Tulane football coach Vince Gibson, whose agency is handling package deals: $1,225 to $1,525 per person for four days' lodging and game tickets between the 10- and 40-yard lines.
Different agencies are trying different approaches. Former Redskin Mark Moseley's travel agency is putting together air fare and accommodation packages, but has no tickets. "We are taking calls from season ticket-holders who got tickets in the lottery and don't want them, and putting them together with people who do want them," said Moseley's assistant, Eileen Fry, "but we don't actually have any tickets to sell ourselves."
The federal Department of Transportation, in fact, issued a warning yesterday to Super Bowl aspirants to check closely the terms of any package deals they sign up for, to make sure whether tickets are included or not. The DOT advised that an ad may sound as if a package includes tickets when it actually doesn't, which could lead to disappointment, not to mention murder, on the West Coast.
Meantime, the fever builds. "I'm in Bronco heaven," said Bob Andrews, president of Mountain States Travel and Tours in Denver. "We're selling packages like crazy."
In Gaithersburg, the 12 employees of S.F. Tull Plumbing Co. are going cazy for their boss, Richard Tull, who is trying to buy a dozen tickets to take his entire staff to the game. "He just likes to please people," said Anita Stiger, who was suitably pleased.
Of course, they'll need a place to stay.
Let's see, a dozen people. Be nice to have them all under one roof. Wonder if he knows about Bill Walton's little place?