A weighty decision: To go to Tampa or sell the tickets

January 20, 2001|By Rob Kasper

WHEN JERRY Shifflett called me the other night I assumed he wanted to discuss our usual topic, kids basketball. Jerry and I coach a team that our sons play on in the Towsontowne Recreation League for 13- to 15-year-old boys. As anyone involved with kids basketball knows, before every game there is a flurry of phone calls in which the coaches talk about which players might show up, who is sick, who needs a ride.

We did some of that, confirming that a game that should have been played last Sunday would instead be played this afternoon. But then Jerry confessed that his mind wasn't really focused on the sweaty games in the dusty gym of the Carver Center for Arts and Tech- nology. Instead he had been thinking about next week's Super Bowl game between the Baltimore Ravens and the New York Giants in sunny Tampa.

Jerry has two tickets to the game, on the 10-yard line, and is struggling to decide what to do with them. Should he go and spend the money, about $3,000 for two in Tampa? If so, who should he take, his 19-year-old daughter Bobbi Ann, a freshman at Villa Julie College, or his 16-year old son Steven, a sophomore at Calvert Hall? They both want to go. How could he pick between them?

Or should he sell the tickets, pocket the proceeds and pay a few bills or take his entire family on a vacation next summer?

Life had dealt him a bit of good luck. Jerry is one of the Ravens season ticket holders picked in a lottery conducted by the club to distribute tickets to the Super Bowl. Now he was trying to figure out how to manage his good fortune.

He was getting a lot of advice. The guys at the Ruxton Service Station, a Texaco station where Jerry works, have conflicting ideas. His brother, Ken, a mechanic at the station, has been telling Jerry this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He has reminded his brother that even if the Ravens make it back to the Super Bowl in subsequent seasons, he might not get another chance to buy the sought-after tickets. Go to Tampa, cough up the cash and cheer for your beloved Ravens, his brother tells him. That is also what Jerry's wife, Mary, thinks he should do.

But Michael Mozelack, another mechanic at the service station, and Dave Bowerman, the station's owner, think this is a no-brainer. Rather than spending a heap of money to go to Tampa, they advise Jerry to be practical, to sell his tickets and root for the Ravens surrounded by friends and family back in Baltimore.

Jerry's mother, Doris, has similar feelings. She thinks her son has not "won" anything. He still has to pay for the tickets, $325 each. And he still had to make reservations for $600 airline tickets. In his mother's mind, her son's Super Bowl situation is like those dubious offers that arrive in the mail announcing you have won a free trip, but still require you to buy something.

Ever since last Thursday, when he opened the letter notifying him of his right to buy Super Bowl tickets, Jerry has been on an emotional roller coaster, bouncing back and forth on whether to go or stay, to buy or sell.

Wednesday evening, in the pro-go mood, Jerry drove down to PSINet Stadium in his 1994 Mercury Sable station wagon to pick up the tickets. In the five years he has held tickets, his son and daughter have often accompanied him to Ravens games, first at Memorial Stadium, then at PSINet. His wife was content to go to only one game. But the other night she rode downtown with him to fetch the Super Bowl tickets. Two police officers were on duty as Jerry walked up to the ticket window, presented his letter from the Ravens, his driver's license and $650 in cash. Soon he had two Super Bowl tickets -- 10-yard line, upper deck -- in his hands. "I couldn't believe it," Jerry said. "I told Mary if the house burns down tonight, forget me, go for the tickets. She laughed but said: `Be sure to tell me where you put them.' "

The next day, Jerry took the tickets to the service station, to show them to his brother and buddies.

In the meantime he placed an advertisement on the Ravens Web site -- it's ad No. 2039 in the classifeds, under "tickets, sports" at www.ravenszone.net -- soliciting bids for his tickets. (He is not accepting phone calls concerning the tickets, either at home or at work). Yesterday, offers were running as high as $2,000 per ticket.

"I really would like to go to the game," Jerry told me. "But it is hard to turn down the kind of money that is being offered for me not to go." Jerry said that sometime this weekend he is going to make up his mind whether to go to the Super Bowl or sell the tickets.

My only advice was that if he hasn't sold the tickets by the time we play our basketball game this afternoon, perhaps he could flash them at the referees. Maybe we could swap a few fouls for a trip to the big game.

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