Addled or inane, scalper purge is anti-American

DAN RODRICKS

October 22, 1992|By DAN RODRICKS

And now we have the police commissioner of Baltimore and the City Council president joining hands to rid society of the scourge of Oriole ticket scalpers.

Madame president, Mary Pat Clarke, has introduced legislation in the council to make scalping illegal, and the commish, Eddie Woods, wants the law to cover both those who deal and those who buy. Question: Is this the work of idle minds or addled minds?

What malarkey.

As if the cops here aren't overworked already, the commish and madame president want to add a new law to the books, and, one assumes, they expect Baltimore's finest to enforce it.

Somebody selling drugs on your street?

Somebody breaking into houses?

Better arrange to have them do that between October and April because, come baseball season, we're going to have Baltimore cops on the prowl for ducat-hucksters at Oriole Park. Put on the flak jackets, boys, it's time for the ticket-scalper crackdown! Film at 11!

Madame president says she's doing this because the availability of Oriole tickets has been subverted by sophisticated scalpers who call themselves brokers and have been able to resell Oriole tickets to lunatics willing to pay $85 apiece. There were reports about this earlier in the year, and, though it was an isolated incident, the $85 price provides Clarke with the hyperbole she needs to make her point.

But, after the euphoria over Oriole Park wears off, the chances of a broker getting such a price on a regular basis during the regular season is small.

Moreover, the fool who agrees to pay that kind of price does not deserve the "consumer protection" such a city ordinance might intend.

He's probably got the money to burn -- and he's probably from Washington or Virginia -- so why should anyone care?

The person who would actually be hurt by the ordinance Clarke proposes is the person she claims to protect -- the guy who shows up an hour before a game looking for somebody selling a ticket on the street.

There's nothing high-toned or high-tech about such a deal; there are no 800 numbers involved. It's a routine transaction, thoroughly incidental to the nation's commerce, that takes place outside sports parks and concert arenas all the time.

What would life be for desperate baseball fans if, on a whim,

they couldn't go to Oriole Park and count on finding some guy peddling a ticket?

It would be hell, that's what it would be.

Not only would Clarke's bill hurt ticket availability, but it also would discourage the enterprising guy trying to score a couple of bucks on a ticket.

Or the guy trying to dump a ticket and break even.

Or the guy so desperate to recoup money on a ticket he can't use that he sells it at discount.

And we could see, one presumes, Baltimore police officers handcuffing people for buying a ticket from a scalper. The penalty would be a misdemeanor conviction and a $500 fine.

Folks, this bill is for the birds.

Literally.

It's not in the public interest that the Orioles squawk about scalpers. That's not why they support this law.

The team doesn't want anyone reselling tickets because it hurts the sale of other tickets at the box office.

Every ticket a scalper scalps is a ticket the Orioles don't sell.

Every time someone makes a profit on the tickets the franchise already has sold, the smell of smoke comes wafting from the Oriole offices. It's the owner doing a slow burn.

While I can understand the frustration, I can't stomach the hypocrisy.

The Orioles are making gobs of money, and here they are denying a few bucks to entrepreneurs.

They are not willing to become a public utility, yet they want government to regulate the sale of their product.

Haven't they been listening to President Bush's rap on small business?

Don't they subscribe to the good, solid Republican idea of less government and more free enterprise?

What is ticket scalping? It's buying an item that is in demand and reselling it at a markup to make a profit.

And that sounds like what happens to beer and hot dogs at Oriole Park all the time.

Sounds like capitalism.

Sounds downright American.

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