(It's not always about how you start, but to be successful, you have to finish strong.)
MICHIGAN VERSUS OHIO STATE
A few days ago, in Big Ten Basketball, the Michigan Wolverines defeated The Ohio State University, 92-87. For those who caught any of this action, it was a compelling game in an otherwise ordinary game of college basketball. This basketball match helped remind me of a memorable football game that took place on November 29, 2014; the Ohio State Buckeyes hosted the Michigan Wolverines.
A little context, it was Thanksgiving weekend and my daughter, Ellen, was a Resident Assistant and a sophomore at OSU, so my wife, my youngest daughter, and I decided to drive 400 miles to visit her, attend this rivalry and tour The Ohio State University that weekend.
COMPLETE MISGUIDED APPROACH TO SECURE A TICKET
I was supposed to sit in the student section with the rest of my family but declined a ticket. I was a little hesitant about getting into the student section even though the rest of the clan said it was no issue. Plan B was to walking just outside the stadium to quickly score on a ticket.
What was I thinking? It was a rivalry game and a chance for OSU to go to the first BCS Championship. Thinking back at the time, I quietly wondered if I’d score a quick ticket and even beat them inside the stadium.
Near the stadium, ticket scalpers were asking $200 for nose bleed seats so it was time to search for a new ticket marketplace. I walked a few blocks north of the stadium to W. Lane Ave in the hopes of securing less expensive tickets. As I walked around surveying the economics being played out with the ticket marketplace, I noticed a cordoned-off area where licensed ticket brokers were operating. Without a license, selling tickets illegally could result in a misdemeanor violation.
Before I moved on, I countered several offers by the licensed ticket brokers and gradually realized that less than 30 minutes before kickoff, the ticket supply was dwindling -- many ticketless individuals were finding fewer and fewer good prospects. Indeed, a seller’s market. I panicked a little but soldiered on. A perfect example of the incredible demand for tickets for this particular game was among the largest at Ohio Stadium, 108,610 spectators attended. I estimate they could have sold another 5 - 10,000 tickets that day.
One thing I realized later is that these licensed ticket brokers may have a lot of skin in the game. They study ticket markets and ticket demand to determine a price point to incorporate their necessary profit. Of course, location plays a big role. However, as a ticket seeker, you have to be responsible for having a printout of stadium seating. if you’re not familiar with the venue and haven’t done your homework, you’re at a disadvantage. I’ve had situations where I’m viewing a small printout of the stadium’s seating chart while the wind tries to rip the seating chart from my hand. Anyway, those licensed individuals appeared to know something that many others didn’t, there’s so much craziness to get inside the stadium and see this epic matchup that they’ll eventually get their asking price.
Once I moved on, there were many more ‘street’ ticket brokers that I surveyed. With limited time and cash, my blood pressure was spiking. I had to get a ticket otherwise this would have been an embarrassing episode to spend all weekend in Columbus but not able to see such a rivalry game so I nosed around some of the ticket scalpers to see the ticket marketplace. Unfortunately, demand exceeded supply, difficult to gauge to what degree, but based on the ‘street’ ticket prices, ticket prices were significantly inflated. One ticket broker, I briefly befriended, I’ll refer to as Joe. Perhaps I pestered him too much but I was trying to seal the deal, and he had other intentions. He sold me a ticket for $125 in the upper deck which appeared to be far from the field, I grabbed it and because it was a 10-minute walk to the gate, I began to jog to get into the stadium as soon as possible.
SO HAPPY TO HAVE AN ACTUAL PHYSICAL TICKET IN MY HAND
As I headed to the gates with my ticket secured in my hand, I nodded in Joe’s direction. He quickly turned away, I briefly thought, “I hope that’s not an omen.” While still outside, as I heard the crowd roar, it appears something good was occurring for the Buckeyes, early in the first quarter. With my ticket in hand and after briefly searched by security, I silently thought, “Finally I get to go in.” I handed my ticket to the ticket scanner and the message appeared, ‘This ticket number has already been used.’ Wait, I’m holding an actual ticket in my hand but it’s no longer a valid ticket and then I realize this will not end well.
THAT DAMN ACTUAL PHYSICAL TICKET IN MY HAND IS USELESS
It quickly dawned on me that my physical ticket code had been used through a printed ticket or perhaps through a mobile device. At this point, it didn't matter, but what does matter is the shock and embarrassment I felt through this experience. I couldn’t believe what I had just done but trying to remain calm and map out a strong strategy. In retrospect, the good news about being embarrassed, none of the fans milling outside the stadium cared. Near the ticket windows, some were just hanging out while others had a purpose. No one paid any attention to a taller man who walked around with a bright red face of embarrassment. In retrospect, even though my self-consciousness kicked in, I could have been more composed and somewhat calm but one must realize that after attending about 50 professional and college games, this was the first time I was ripped off. Ok, lesson learned.
WATER OVER THE DAM
I had several choices. I could stand in a queue outside the ticket window for half the game and wait to see if I could purchase an unclaimed ticket at intermission. The other option, go back to the street and confront Joe. I had the sense that Joe was part of an organized group of ticket brokers and runners so why get messed up in that. Joe won this battle as I was tricked into buying this useless ticket.
The water and $125 fell over the dam, Joe won that by cheating. Did I anger him so much that he decided to con me? While waiting and gently hopping on both legs to keep warm, these thoughts were played in my mind reminding me of ping pong. I opted to wait in the ticket queue. Other bad news, the entire time was spent in the shade with a nasty wind whipping against the north end of the huge stadium. Even though I dressed warmly, I got the chills more than once. Mostly men in the queue, several were talking about the ticket scam situation on N. Lane Ave. Most in the queue were not happy about this ticket policy. Several police officers wandered by while we waited but appeared uninterested in our claim that there was a lot of ticket scamming going on just north of here.
One more overall common about legitimate and illegitimate ticket brokers. In many situations, local law enforcement will not crack down on illegitimate ticket brokers if there aren’t any complaints. This general principle applies to other rules and regulations that are not necessarily enforced unless a complaint or a disturbance. Many police officers may look the other way with unlicensed ticket brokers, would rather react than make it a more honest and secure process. In this scenario, we did complain to law enforcement several times as they walked on by. If law enforcement won’t enforce the law, what’s the motivation for going into this side business by going legitimate? If he’s regulated by getting licensed, but those others are not, what’s the point of going through the process of getting licensed? At t his point, is it only a liability concern for some to get licensed?
At halftime, the score was tied at 14-14. But for most of the half, we had a vague idea of the score but sometimes news was 5 minutes delayed. So what did some of us do while standing outside the stadium? We used mobile devices, the roar of the crowd, and whatever other information you could gather as you chat with those walking by.
THIS TIME, MY ACTUAL PHYSICAL TICKET WORKED…
I got to my seat after losing half of the 3rd quarter. Ok, I’m thinking the 4th quarter should be dynamite. My seat was 4 rows from the top near the 20-yard line. If you’ve ever been to ‘The Shoe,’ you’ll know there could be 60 rows in the upper deck. I get to my seat and no one wants to move. After some ‘stink eye’ and assertiveness, I squeezed and wiggled my buttocks and hips to ultimately claim my seat. These Buckeye dudes who had to separate from my actual seat figured that by half-time, this seat is vacant for the entire game. After a few minutes, everyone adjusted, seeing that the Buckeyes were about to score, surrounded by OSU fans, people got back into action.
THE OHIO STATE BUCKEYES DEFEATED MICHIGAN, FANS STORM THE FIELD…
In the second half, the Buckeyes outscored the Wolverines by 14, winning 42-28. JT Barrett was injured late in the game so Cardale Jones came in on relief to close the victory. After the game, fans at The Shoe stormed the field. Within 5 minutes, it appeared that half the fans were somehow transported from the bowl onto the field. It was an ecstatic experience – fans were filled with joy and happiness. The only law enforcement had encircled the goalposts from being torn down after the 111th meeting of these adversaries. I don’t know what brought me more joy, celebrating the victory with so many fans or realizing that I was near the ‘O’ near the 50-yard line.
BUCKEYES GOING TO THE BCS CHAMPIONSHIP
On December 6th, the Buckeyes defeated Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big Ten Championship, earning the right to play in the BCS championship. The Buckeyes went on to upset the Crimson Tide and then defeated the Oregon Ducks in the BCS Championship Game. The first BCS Championship went to a team that barely snuck into the 4 spots of the tournament.
One digression, my wife and I attended the Citrus Bowl on January 1, 2015, where the Minnesota Gophers faced the Missouri Tigers. As my wife entered the restroom at halftime wearing her Buckeyes jacket, a woman dressed in Crimson Tide swag from her shoes up to her body slowly walked past my wife and said, “Roll Tide, Roll.” The Sugar Bowl, which was played later that day, saw the Buckeyes upset the Crimson Tide. I’d give anything to see my wife walk past this woman again and say, “Roll Tide, Roll.”
Before putting the pen to paper, I attempted to mindfully review this frustrating ticket experience which occurred 6 years ago. So it appears that Joe had his fill of me so to get rid of a gnat, you punish me by selling me a useless ticket. My mind naturally gets to the point of trying to understand his intentions. It appears our minds weren’t congruent in the same amount of empathy and understanding.
The most frustrating aspect of my interaction with Joe was that he didn’t signal to me that he’s about to sell me a bogus ticket. That was the last thing on my mind – and it appeared to be done deliberately. Hindsight is 20-20. For example, I now realize he had at least 3 stacks of tickets, at least one stack inside his jacket. Realizing much later, that bad ticket came from inside the jacket, a future tell? In between brief interactions, I’d watch him from about 15 feet for 10 minutes, and all the tickets sold were from outside the jacket.
In retrospect, I’ve briefly thought about what could have done differently with my interaction with Joe and the only crazy thing that came to mind was taking his picture after the transaction. Once complete, mention to Joe that if this ticket is bogus, I’m sending this picture to the Columbus police department. That’s just wishful thinking by me. Come on, I infrequently scalp tickets, only when I’m desperate or think I can obtain a ticket less than face value. Of course, if a surplus of tickets, supply exceeds the demand so you may pay less than face value. I lack some experience when doing this activity. There’s no way that I’d ever consider taking a picture of the ticket scalper after our transaction. It’s wishful thinking. Besides, cameras and photos are the least welcomed items around individuals who are breaking the law. It’s easy to imagine many of these illicit ticket brokers would get testy with such an approach.
If I had to go it over again, I would not have scalped a ticket. I had a chance to get into the student section but I balked. I decided to look for one ticket on the street, thinking how hard can be to secure 22 inches of legroom on a bench considering there were 108,610 spectators? And when I say ‘the street,’ I mean going to those licensed ticket brokers for that 1 seat. Yes, pay a little more but see the entire game. Watch the first half as both teams are trying to obtain gridiron dominance. Stand for the national anthem. That’s what I would have done – seen the entire game and avoided this hassle.
WHO ARE YOU KIDDING?
Stop, I’m kidding, would I have a story to tell if I had just gotten a legitimate ticket and watched OSU defeat UM? It was a little frustrating and annoying being scammed by some stranger on the street. It’s wasn’t the $125 per se, it was the swindling he did to me, that hurt a bit. However, I have no regrets about it happening – that wasn’t my plan to create an experience for myself, it just happened. Anyway, the game turned out great and thousands of fans got to celebrate on the field in such a joyful way. Little did OSU fans know at the time that the Buckeyes would go on to win the first BCS Championship by winning three straight games after defeating Michigan. In other words, it turned out to be a glorious and memorable day of college football.