Part of the blame for the ticket snafu was laid on brokers, some of whom did a thriving business by buying blocks and selling reasonably well-located season tickets, worth $180 and $150, for up to three times their face value. "It's not that the Raiders are popular," said Dave Adelman, owner of Murray's Tickets. "It's that the Rams are unpopular." Oh? The Los Angeles—er, Anaheim—Rams also played at home last week, on Saturday night, and sold out all 69,007 seats, although there were 14,470 no-shows.
Also unappreciated was the Raiders' preferred seating list, which was a guarded secret. Said LoCasale, "One guy told me, 'You have no constituency in Congress. You can't give away Super Bowls, or expansion teams, or Redskins tickets, or lunch with Johnny Unitas.' " But Davis could reward influential fans with preferred seats, and that was an irritation to a general public that had been consigned to the crow's nest.
"There are people, most of them with the Coliseum Commission, that you have to give tickets to," said Adelman. "Several thousand, maybe. Without them, the Raiders aren't even here."
"Everybody wants to be between the 40s at the games," said Qantel's Dallas Talley. "The reason there's so much complaining is that nobody had season tickets at one point—and everybody thought they had a shot. I think every club owner wishes he could do his seating plan all over again. I guess getting your friends in is part of the fun of ownership."
The man in charge of the Raiders' computer system is Steve Ballard. He's assisted by Bob Mishak Jr., son of a Raider assistant coach. The system is operated by trainees, two of whom are Steve Ballard and Bob Mishak Jr.
"We've been working, at a minimum, 12 hours a day and sometimes 20," said Mishak Jr. "The system hasn't broken down. The problems are those you'd expect with a boiler-room operation. In punching a keyboard under duress, there's bound to be errors. But if it hadn't been for the system, we wouldn't even have been this far along."
Two days before the Packers exhibition game, James Hardy, general manager of the L.A. Coliseum and Sports Arena, proved a prophet. "The Raiders don't have the arms, legs and hours in the day to get this job done," he said. "If they don't get those tickets out—and it's too late to mail them now—it won't be full. If people don't have their tickets before the weekend, they can't give them to clients and friends, and they'll go unused. The Raiders will have to hand them out at 'will-call.' They might as well use the pari-mutuel windows at Santa Anita."
The Raiders anticipate having ticket matters more in hand, the hand of the fan, when they host Cleveland in their last exhibition game on Sept. 4. But the real problem is that the L.A. Coliseum is inferior to Oakland's (which last week was lined and made ready for the Raiders-Packers game as a publicity gimmick) in all but two areas: its location and its capacity (92,516 vs. 54,616).
The L.A. Coliseum is as dark as a confessional, and at night the end zones are even darker. A 400-meter running track surrounds the field, acting as a moat between players and observers. One hundred and fifty luxury boxes, at $40,000 apiece, will be installed on the stadium's rim by next season; they may have to be placed under the six light standards in order for their occupants to see the action on the field. And, of course, the L.A. Coliseum is light-years away from the Raiders' regular practice site near the Oakland Coliseum. Their Los Angeles practice facility will be the former El Segundo Junior High, but it won't be available until late October.
"They broke ground [actually, it was asphalt] on August 26," said Ken LaRue, the Raiders' business manager. "There will be seven buildings and three practice fields, one of artificial turf, one of natural Bermuda and one of Hi-Play grass. We just had George Toma [the celebrated Kansas City Royals groundskeeper] out here looking it over."