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Super Bowl about corporate paybacks and celebs, not fans
Special to The Seattle Times
So what would you do, go to the Super Bowl or sell your pair of tickets for $5,000?
"Ah, it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Bob Oakland of Bainbridge Island. "If you get a chance to play Augusta National, you do it, right?"
Oakland, 48, regional manager for a title company, and his wife, Catheryn, will use airline mileage to fly to Chicago, drive a rental car to Detroit and spend $300 a night to stay at a Hampton Inn in Ann Arbor.
"If in another life I needed the money, then I'd sell the tickets," said Oakland, still riding a high from Seattle's conference-championship win over Carolina, "but fortunately I don't."
Winning a lottery for Seahawks season-ticket holders and writing a check for $1,240 for the two tickets proved to be the easy part for the Oaklands as Catheryn was nearly assaulted picking them up by people willing to pay $5,000 to take them off her hands.
Chances are they weren't Seahawks fans. I was at the Super Bowl in 2001 when I saw a woeful New York Giants fan desperately looking to buy a ticket for his young son.
He managed to buy the ticket at face value — $350 — but the little boy never showed, of course. In his place was a well-dressed guy from New Jersey who wasn't ashamed to say he had paid $5,000 for the single ducat.
I don't know. The minute the titillating telecast of Seattle's NFC championship win over Carolina concluded, an advertisement told you how to buy an NFC championship cap just like Shaun Alexander was wearing.
For $45. A cap?
Why have the prices of tickets almost doubled in five years? Why are there so few for the fans in the first place? Who is to blame for the outrageous prices, those who sell them or those who buy them?
The Super Bowl ought to be a reward for the fans of the teams involved, not a reason to refinance the house. It's turned into a party for a bunch of business folks who think Lofa Tatupu is a Polynesian appetizer.
The Huskies got nearly 40,000 seats for their fans for the Rose Bowl when they last went. The Seahawks, after keeping 25 percent of the limited number of tickets they got for their best customers, made only 8,000 available to their fans.
In Detroit, Seahawks and Steelers fans will be in the minority, lost in the glamour of couture and cleavage. The buzz is not about secondary matchups, but about who's in town and what parties they'll attend. The Super Bowl is the province of corporate America, not Joe Fan.
I understand the Oaklands from Bainbridge going to the game, but I think they'll end up emotionally short of where they were last week when they high-fived strangers at Qwest Field. When on one day a city unashamedly gave its heart to a team.
Short even if the Seahawks beat Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XL.
After Qwest Field, they'll wonder where the passion went. They'll think they are at the Academy Awards by mistake.
There's no question that no ticket is hotter, or that when given a chance most modern American sports fans make the Super Bowl their fantasy of choice. But where is the tradition that comes with the World Series? Where is the majesty of the Masters, the cultural mixing of the Olympics, and the fire of the Final Four?
A big reason for the price of the tickets — legal and illegal — to the game is their scarcity. Only 1 percent is made available to the unwashed public, and only 34 percent to the teams involved, who likely cherry-pick the best of those before tending to their fans.
I remember watching the first Super Bowl, in 1967, on a break from basic training in the Army. It was a game at the Los Angeles Coliseum where tickets cost $13 and the halftime entertainment was the collegiate marching bands from Michigan and Arizona.
The lure of the game is no doubt stronger now, even though it has steadily become more about celebrities and corporate sponsorships than about football.
"We're looking at the game as if it were a chance to go to Mardi Gras," said Bob Oakland.
Oakland was one of the lucky ones. I hope he still feels that way when it's over.
Comments for Blaine Newnham can be e-mailed to email@example.com.
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company