TAMPA, Fla. - Ed Frieman looked very much the part of the die-hard Ravens fan yesterday as he stood outside a downtown hotel yesterday. He had his hat and shirt with the team's logo and a sense of hopelessness about getting a reasonably priced ticket to Super Bowl XXXV.
Frieman, a retired businessman from Pikesville, had already bought two tickets for him and his wife through an ad in The Sun last week. He was looking for another for his daughter, who was flying in for the game from San Diego.
"I don't want to tell you how much I paid for them," said Frieman. "It was ridiculous. I'm not proud of it."
Needless to say, it was a lot more than he paid for tickets to Super Bowl III between the Baltimore Colts and New York Jets, as well as for those to Super Bowl V between the Colts and Dallas Cowboys. But it might be a bargain compared with what it might take to get one for this year's game.
"The first time I got tickets from someone in Annapolis, I think I paid $20 each," he said. "The second time, people told me that I could go down and get tickets for face value the day of the game, and that's what I did."
Not for tomorrow's game against the New York Giants at Raymond James Stadium. Despite predictions for a low-scoring defensive battle, the street-sale ticket prices are among the highest in history.
Many believe that the proliferation of New York-based scalpers and Giants fans willing to pay up to $5,000 for prime seats have skewed the market.
"Let's be honest, I don't think there's a tremendous demand coming from Baltimore," said Mike Holzberger, co-owner of Connections Ticket Services, Inc. in Milwaukee. "The people from Baltimore are not willing to pay the price. Most of the people I've from this week from Baltimore are looking to sell their tickets because they know what they can get for them."
Holzberger said that this year's Super Bowl has created the kind of frenzy seen only a couple of times in recent memory, most recently in San Diego two years ago for the Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos.
There are many factors influencing the market: the teams playing and the cities they play in, the city in which the game is being played and the state of the economy. "It's very economy-driven, because the money being used is usually coming from discretionary income," said Holzberger.
For Harvey Harris, the money he is spending here this week is coming from what is left after his divorce back in London.
A fan of American football, Harris had heard stories about how much fun it was coming to the Super Bowl. He heard he probably would spend as much as he would for a ticket to a English Premier League final between Manchester United and Chelsea.`That would be about 750 pounds [or a little over $1,000]," said Harris, a fashion designer. "I was told that if you had bought them last week, that's what you would have paid for this game. Now it's double. But it's like anything, if you want to have a good time and be where the action is, you're willing to pay the price."
It's difficult to tell who wants to buy tickets in order to go to the game, and who wants to buy them in order to scalp them. There was an ad in yesterday's Tampa Tribune from "a Ravens fan looking for 4 tickets. Ask for Brian." But when contacted by The Sun, Brian 'fessed up. "I'm a ticket broker," he said. `Try somebody else. It wouldn't be a good story."
There was a similar ad from a Giants fan, and a similar response.
Their hesitance to talk is understandable, considering that convictions for ticket-scalping (or selling a ticket for no more than $1 above face value, according to local statutes) is punishable by a $500 fine and up to a year in jail.
Tickets for Sunday's game at the 72,000-seat stadium are priced at two levels, $325 and $400.
Shamil Salah, a software salesman from Reston, Va., has been coming to the Super Bowl "for the last four or five years" and can't recall tickets being this high - or scarce. He paid about $800 for last year's game in Atlanta between the St. Louis Rams and Tennessee Titans, but an ice storm on game day might have driven the prices down.
The pleasant temperatures here - not quite beach weather, but certainly golf weather - and the presence of a New York-area team have conspired to put the prices out of reach and Salah out of the ballpark. "The average Joe isn't going to spend that kind of money," said Salah.
Some fans are so embarrassed that they are willing to pay the exorbitant prices that they don't want to reveal their true identity.
Just ask Robert Jones of Montreal.
"Not my real name," he said.
Robert or Jones?
"Both," he said.
And the part about being from Montreal?
"I'm from Connecticut," he said.
"The Giants fans are not letting go of their tickets," he said.
But they will. That is what Jim Schulz, an insurance salesman and Packers fan from Milwaukee, was hoping for yesterday as he roamed downtown looking for tickets. He doesn't intend on spending more than $1,000, and will go right up to kickoff if that's what it takes.
And what about those who aren't as patient, and are willing to pay five times as much?`They're idiots," he said.