When I asked if
he had ever been arrested, Carameros said once a cop in Miami told him he'd run
him in if he didn't tone his operation down a little. "Usually it's live
and let live," he said. "If it turns out here that they're running
people, I'll just go in and watch the game. Watch the game! I guess that's the
ultimate rip-off of the scalper."
I tried a little
scalping myself, in the interests of journalism. I began at the World Series. I
had a $15 ticket to sell, and I was with my friend Roland Betts, who is a
lawyer. A lawyer is good at arguing, at getting top dollar, at keeping people
out of jail and, because he is accustomed to being paid by the hour, at
counseling patience. You don't just step out of the subway hollering, "I've
got two boxes for $150." Especially if you don't have two boxes. First, you
get into the rhythm, get into the mood. You circulate a little. You check out
your fellow scalpers. Little twitchy scalpers, hard-eyed Yankee-capped scalpers
who resemble Sal Maglie, languid, hey-I-couldn't-care-less scalpers, obviously
amateur scalpers mumbling to each other, "I don't know, what do you
think?" And here and there a guy with such a good thing working that he's
smiling, bubbling; he hasn't a care in the world.
You look over the
uniformed cops in the area, but since people are visibly scalping all around
them already, it would appear that all you have to worry about is not blatantly
consummating any deals under their noses.
Not that you're
doing anything illegal yet. You're strolling. You may ask an occasional
question. Somebody mumbles, "Who needs two?" You mumble, "How
much?" Whatever the answer is, you say, "Huh," and move on, as
though you have a keener sense of values. To this the seller may say, "Huh?
Huh. Better get 'em while you can." He may even give you a certain kind of
confident scalper's sneer. You say "Huh" again.
You begin to feel
the urge to deal. You work out an approach. Or, rather, a way of being
approached, because it is important for reasons of style, leverage and
discretion that you eschew the hard sell. You're not hawking, you're not
exactly trafficking, even; you're indicating that you might be prevailed upon
to offer a service. You might walk around holding up a finger or two, or
letting the tickets stick up from your shirt pocket. I found I felt comfortable
and authentic moving against the flow of the crowd, snapping, "Who needs
It worked. Roland
and I sold my $15 ticket for $40, bought two more for $65, moved more and more
suavely, snapped "Who needs 'em?" more convincingly, followed a guy who
had eyed us into a dark street corner....
Wait a minute!
How did we get into a dark street corner? I was trying to decide whether to
run, throw myself on his mercy, or throw Roland on his mercy, when the guy
said, "You sure you ain't cops?"
sold us two bleachers for $20, and we went back to operating. We became
authorities on The Price. "Naw, that ain't The Price," we'd snap to
people asking more or offering less than we were. Maybe we weren't the last
word on The Price, but we were working the crowd, driving at least semihard
bargains, riding the surf of the moment, snapping "Who needs 'em?"
Until all of a sudden I ran into a sportswriter I knew, who exclaimed,
"What are you doing?"
As a class,
sportswriters aren't the highest socioeconomic flyers in the world, but they're
not usually reduced to peddling tickets. I was rattled. "Oh, I, uh...doing
a story," I said. And all my concentration was gone. We wound up with a
cash deficit of $45. That is, after starting out with the one seat worth $15
and trading for three hours, we got ourselves and a kid who said his name was
Cliffert into the bleachers for $30.
At the 1978 Super
Bowl I had a ticket and my press credential, and somewhere along the line I
sold the ticket for $100. Carameros had been suggesting he might see his way
clear to giving me $75 for it. The guy I sold it to probably turned it over for
$150. I couldn't get top dollar because I couldn't come up with lines the way
Carameros could. When a man quibbled about the price of a ticket he needed for
his wife, Carameros said, "Let her watch it on TV! I hear those instant
replays are great!"