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"I like to make money," Carameros said. "I started scalping tickets in college. Now I just hit some of the big games around this part of the country. It's a risk. Like, hell, I lost almost $50 on Washington- Dallas tickets this year. They televised the game in Dallas and I couldn't give 'em away. Had to literally throw four in the trash can."
Where Carameros depended on on-the-spot buying for his tickets, a full-time scalper might mail in eight or 10 different orders for tickets to a big event, using his own address, a box number, his sister's name, his cousins' names, his girl friend's name and her cousins' names.... Even if the limit is two tickets per order, that can add up to a couple of dozen tickets, if the cousins don't get greedy. A larger operator may employ kids called "diggers" to wait in line for tickets, moving from window to window to get as many as possible.
Scalpers will sometimes make deals with ticket managers, ticket sellers and other front-office personnel to let them buy tickets before they go on public sale. The Chicago Black Hawks' ticket office was investigated by a grand jury a few years ago in connection with such practices. In college sports, students get cut-rate tickets, and so do faculty members and staff. Some of these tickets have been known to find their way into the scalping market. At a Michigan football game a couple of years ago a 90-year-old man was bounced from the student section.
Players get ticket allotments. At a big-time college an alumnus may arrange with a player to buy all his tickets throughout the season. When a visiting team arrives at an airport for a big game, local scalpers will be waiting to take extra tickets off the players' hands. Enterprising Super Bowl-bound players buy up teammates' extra tickets at twice their face value and funnel them off.
Most tickets obtained from the inside are scalped before game day to regular clients, such as functionaries charged with fixing up things for VIPs, Las Vegas hotels who hand them out to high rollers, big suppliers who use bellmen to sell them to guests. Even so, most sports scalping is small business. "Making arrests of scalpers is like fishing at a hatchery," says Captain Jerry Kennedy of the Denver police department. "You can only handle so many." In most cities, scalpers get away with a small fine, and uniformed police usually ignore scalpers who exercise minimal discretion. One scalper, Bobby Estell of Birmingham, who was arrested for scalping at the 1967 Auburn-Alabama game, fought his case for four years and finally won in a Federal Court of Appeals, which threw out the Birmingham anti-scalping ordinance.
"I felt all along it was unconstitutional," says Estell. "Scalping is no more than selling something that's your property."
In New Orleans last year a middle-aged man in a police uniform, but with no hat, touched Carameros' arm. "That's all right," he said when Carameros jumped. "That's all right. All I wondered, can you sell my son here a ticket?" A gangly youth gulped.
Carameros was not going to stop and scalp a ticket under the eyes of even a hatless policeman. He didn't break stride but he did say, "Tell him to come with me, and I'll get him into the game."
The cop was the one who seemed embarrassed. "He says he'll get you in," he told the youth. "Just go with him."
The son gulped again. Here he was being told by his father, the law officer, to follow a scalper off somewhere. He stood rooted. The cop pulled him along behind Carameros for a while but finally he gave up.