As for his personal supply, Rozelle says he takes care of close friends—and, in one case, a pen pal—by selling them a very limited number of tickets at face value. Last year, Rozelle says, he sold 16 Super Bowl tickets to a longtime acquaintance from Los Angeles, Don Ross, who is director of the special events division of FIRSTOURS, which runs 133 retail travel outlets through its Ask Mr. Foster operation; Ross says he kept 10 tickets for his immediate family and sold the other six at face value to a former associate, Peter Uebberoth, now the president of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee for the 1984 Summer Games. Rozelle, however, denies flat-out that he ever sold large blocks of tickets to Ross, or anyone else, for use by travel agencies, as Davis has charged.
Then there's Rozelle's pen pal. "One year," he says, "I received a letter that said, 'Dear Mr. Rozelle. I'm a Pan Am stewardess. I'm going with a guy I love very much. He loves football. I think if you'd sell me two tickets to the Super Bowl game, I could hook him.' "Obviously, she did. "Every year," Rozelle continues, "she writes and asks for tickets, saying she wants to give them as an anniversary present, and I take care of her."
So, the market, however black, is there—for seller and buyer. And serving the nation in this marketplace are such performers as NFL club officials like Guiver; registered ticket brokers like Larry Goss, the general manager of Murray's Tickets in Los Angeles; unregistered scalpers like Mark, who refuses to divulge his last name for fear the IRS will pay him a visit; and NFL players like the veteran who, still wearing his practice gear, went out into the parking lot at San Diego two weeks ago, walked to the parked car of a known scalper, put his head through the window on the driver's side and engaged the man in a long discussion; and like the rookie who says he was approached last fall by three teammates and an assistant coach seeking to buy his two tickets for Super Bowl XV.
"One player offered me face value for them," the rookie says. "One of the other two offered me $300 for both. The third player didn't offer me that much. The coach only offered me $200 for the pair. He was asking everybody for their tickets. He apparently knew a lot of people who wanted them. It sounded like he'd done it before."
And what did this rookie do with his two tickets?
"I sold them for $300," he says. In fact, a random check of NFL players indicted that $300 was the going rate for two tickets to Super Bowl XV.
That assistant coach probably was what the people in the ticket trade call a "runner." A runner takes his booty, however large, and calls someone like Mark or simply shows up at an enterprise such as Murray's Tickets, which is located at the corner of Hoover and Santa Barbara, directly across from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Last year Murray's bought and sold some 6,000 Super Bowl seats, purchasing them for between $150 and $300 and selling them for between $200 and $450. Goss insists that Murray's never buys tickets on speculation. "We buy to order," he says. "You tell me what you want—the quality, how many—and I'll find them. This year it costs at least $150 to buy a guy out of his seat."
Murray's works all year long to secure a guaranteed block of Super Bowl tickets, but demand always exceeds that supply. So, during the playoffs, Murray's opens what it calls "remotes"—hotel rooms that pass as offices—in several NFL cities, speculating that the team in that city might play in the Super Bowl; once a team is eliminated from the playoffs, the remote closes up.
For instance, there was a Murray's remote in Cleveland for a week. But the people at Murray's had little faith in Oakland; the remote there didn't open until the morning after the Raiders won their Super Bowl berth. Once a remote is in operation, buy and sell ads are placed in the classified sections of the area newspapers and contacts are established. When SI's Steve Wulf called the remote in Philadelphia and asked if he could stop by, the answer was, "No way. There's too much money around here."
The expenses Murray's incurs while trying to obtain tickets—hotel charges, airplane flights, classified ads, telephones, etc.—are reflected in the price it charges customers, including travel agencies and individual buyers. Murray's pays taxes and operates in a state in which scalping is legal, as long as it isn't done on the site of the event. Mark, who lives in Washington, D.C., doesn't pay taxes on his ticket profits, and what he does isn't legal. Mark supplements his $11,000-per-year salary as a recreation department worker by buying and selling tickets. "I just do it on events that are sure things," he says. "The Super Bowl, the NCAA finals, things like that. I've never lost on a deal, never got stuck with a ticket, even. If I can make a couple of grand a year on this, and I do, it helps for gas."