Tickets: currency of influence

June 09, 1993

Professional sports are often described as cases of grow men playing little boys' games, but the fact is, adults can become just as childlike on the spectator side of the aisle.

Grown men and women will go to extreme lengths to secure tickets for a sporting event -- waiting in line for hours; strategically mailing postcards all around town in the hopes of being able to purchase a $60 All-Star Game ticket; paying hundreds of dollars simply for the right to purchase a season ticket for hundreds more, as is being done in Charlotte, N.C. for a football franchise.

So maybe it should come as no surprise that legislators -- those movers and shakers who can open many doors with the mere mention of their name -- go absolutely to puddles when offered choice tickets to a top sporting event.

A recent survey of the best compensated lobbyists in the state capital showed that lawyer Bruce C. Bereano spent $12,000 in six months for tickets with which to befriend legislators.

His 16 Redskins season tickets, his Orioles club box and his six Bullets tickets -- "third row on the wood" -- simply allow him to get to know legislators on a one-to-one level, he says, although he won't dispute that it gives him a better chance to commune with lawmakers than if he had but coffee and his own engaging personality to offer.

Yet another story this week, on Major League Baseball's offering every member of Congress the right to purchase two coveted tickets to next month's All-Star Game here, no doubt steamed plenty of more devout, but less influential fans.

Rep. Jim Bunning, a Kentucky congressman who himself was once a noted ballplayer, had it right when he penned back to the acting commissioner: "No bribe." That is surely a better response than that of our own Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, who said, in effect: Send all the tickets you want, I have plenty of friends who'll take 'em.

There is an inherent conflict in Major League Baseball's offering tickets that are as hot as Baltimore blacktop in mid-summer to members of Congress as the legislators are considering a review of baseball's anti-trust exemption.

What Congress' All-Star ticket grab underscores more than anything is how distant both deeply American institutions -- baseball and government -- continue to become to the general public. It's why many people have become so fed up with politicians and fat-cat baseball interests. In fact, having to wait in a line or participate in a raffle for tickets with their fellow citizens might do our legislators some good.

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