His business is conducted on "the walk," the local scalpers' universal term for whatever area serves as the common ground for sellers and buyers. Here in Bloomington, as elsewhere, the straights are ever suspicious. "You'll be selling for face [value] at game time," one straight mumbles to Harrison.
"Cheapskate," says Harrison.
As Keylon, the Tennessee hustler who works Volunteers football games on his home turf, says, "You get called a lot of things out here, a lot of cracks about your heritage and all that, but I just tell 'em, 'Hey buddy, I got the tickets and you don't.' " It behooves a straight to be cautious, to carry a seating chart, to work the scalpers and learn the market. At some venues (including New York City's Madison Square Garden) counterfeit tickets are common—good cause to ponder any potential purchase. For their part, outside arenas like the Garden, where scalping is illegal, hustlers must be even more acutely aware of the market and wise to the whims of the police.
On this February afternoon in Bloomington, Harrison arrived at the walk with 40 tickets in hand, purchased from various season-ticket holders. His then girlfriend, Stephanie Myers, helped him pick up 14 more—at face value, a huge score—when the box office had a late release of tickets. Harrison sold all but four of his 54, grossing nearly $1,000, and then bopped down into the well of the arena with three friends to watch the game and cheer for coach Bob Knight's red army from four of the best seats in the building.
Indiana's 93-76 victory made it a good day all around for Harrison. But as he drove home to Indianapolis that night, the paradox of his profession nagged at him. He is a scalper, a good guy and a bad guy at once, providing a service that the public both craves and detests. "The business has a bad reputation for a good reason," Harrison said. "There are a lot of dishonest people in it. I'd like to think I'm separate from those people, but in truth, I'm not."
Rolling in the opposite direction, home to Mount Vernon, is the red Dodge whose passengers eventually bought two tickets at Harrison's drop-dead price of $80 apiece. Jeff Johnson and Chris Stratman sat 14 rows from the floor, right on the baseline, while their wives went to a nearby restaurant. "I had the time of my life," Johnson said later. "I'll probably go a couple of times a year now. It was more than worth it to pay $80." Here he contained his glee for a beat and considered the transaction that put him in the building. "Of course," he said, "I wish the profit was going to a better cause."