Honey, get out the checkbook. PSL mastermind "Mad" Max Muhleman put me under his spell yesterday, and I've got to have a permanent seat license now, or I'll never feel whole as a fan again.
To hear Max tell it, the fans invented PSLs, and by the year 2000 or so, they'll be asking owners for the right to acquire control of their season tickets -- for a nominal fee, of course.
The Rev. Jimmy Swaggart would have been envious of Max's sermon, but we'll forgive his rather exuberant take on one of the most insipid developments in recent sports history.
Heck, we'll even forgive our new best friend Max for helping the Carolinas land an NFL expansion team, which is how Baltimore got into this mess in the first place.
The Ravens are selling PSLs, but on Max's advice, they're not trying to gouge anyone. In fact, they're doing their absolute best to make this medicine go down as smoothly as possible, which is about all anyone can ask.
We can moan about the PSLs all we want, but after losing out in expansion, we probably couldn't have stolen a team without dangling them before some greedy owner.
Maryland Stadium Authority chairman John Moag did just that -- and Ravens owner Art Modell, rather than push his opportunity to the, uh, Max, actually took a step back.
Moag said he was "shocked, pleasantly shocked" when the Ravens informed him of their decision to seek approximately $65 million in PSLs rather than the $80 million they were permitted under their agreement with the state.
It will cost the state $5 million it would have received had the PSLs sold out, but Moag figures the money will be made up elsewhere, perhaps in one final grand act of fudging.
Indeed, for a man suddenly facing a $5 million problem, Moag seemed overjoyed by the entire package:
The interest-free, three-year payment plan.
The $750 or less it will cost for 60 percent of the PSLs.
The ticket prices at Memorial Stadium, 64 percent of which range from $17 to $35.
"Those are ridiculously low," Moag said, pointing to a price chart at yesterday's news conference. "That doesn't make you any money. What they decided was, 'Don't push your luck in this town.' "
Which, in the end, is smart business.
The Ravens could have gone about this differently, considering that they've generated almost zero revenue since last November, and received no financial guarantees from the state.
They could have gone for the $80 million. They could have asked for deposits before they devised a ticket plan. They could have taken the Eli Jacobs approach and tried to suck every last dollar out of the city.
But they got the message.
Team vice president David "Son of Art" Modell said they conducted 1,000 interviews with fans, everyone from parking lot attendants to attorneys at Piper & Marbury.
"We recognized that the strength of the NFL is not corporate cocktail parties, but fathers and mothers bringing their sons and daughters to the games," Son of Art said in perfect PC, if not perfect NFL-speak.
Even Muhleman would admit that PSLs have succeeded only in cities where fans were up against the wall -- cities like Charlotte, where the licenses raised money for stadium construction, and the deal was "no stadium, no team."
On the flip side, Maxwell's Silver Hammer has never been warmly received in cities with teams already in place, and it scares the living daylights out of the Ravens.
If greed is good, then fear is good.
Then again, fear works both ways.
David Modell actually bragged that the Ravens' plan represents "the new bottom echelon of PSL programs." If Baltimore doesn't ante up, it will justify every sinister thought the NFL ever had about this town.
In other words, we're all sort of in this together.
The Ravens need the PSL money to cover half their moving expenses and weekly sellouts to make the franchise one of the most profitable in the NFL.
The fans need the Ravens to prove their passion to this two-faced league, once and for all.
It's going to happen -- Ravens officials kept pounding the "accessibility" of their program, and they weren't overstating the case. You've heard of the peacekeeper missile? Welcome to fan-friendly extortion.
Ah, but enough complaints -- selling 6,000 single-game tickets at all price ranges is an excellent idea. So is inscribing charter PSL ,, buyers' names on a Roster of Honor at the new stadium.
The $100-per-seat PSL deposit is refundable in August, and you can finance the suckers into the 21st century -- several Maryland banks will offer fans the opportunity to increase their debt with long-term payment plans.
It's not a perfect world -- ticket prices are bound to increase at the new stadium, and if the values of PSLs appreciate as much as Muhleman expects, they'll eventually be affordable only to the wealthy.
That, of course, is the rationale to buy now.
Mad Max, I have sinned!
Honey, get out the checkbook.
Seat license poll
The Ravens outlined plans for permanent seat licenses yesterday. Do you plan to buy a PSL, which will be required before fans can buy a season ticket to the stadium that will open at Camden Yards in 1998? To respond, call Sundial at (410) 783-1800 and enter the four-digit code 5005. For other local Sundial numbers, see the Sundial directory on Page 2A.
Pub Date: 5/17/96