Burton on the Bay

Vol. 8, No. 29
July 20-26, 2000
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Let the Seller Beware:
Big Guys Make Big Bucks; Little Guys Go to Jail

Politicians and diapers have one thing in common. They both should be changed regularly — and for the same reason.

– attributed to Will Rogers

This applies to all of them, from dog catcher to president. Undoubtedly, many of us would be better off if some hadn’t been elected in the first place.

Witty Will also had another line appropriate to mention:

Good judgment comes from experience — and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.

If the Oklahoma cowpoke was right on that, then our legislators and others at the public trough should certainly by now be men and women of good judgment. They should know enough not to squat when wearing their spurs, which incidentally is another bit of Will’s tell-it-like-it-is philosophy.

Rogers went down in a plane piloted by Wiley Post in 1935, the news of which I recall hearing on a news flash via radio at the height of the Great Depression. I wonder what he’d have to say about some of the shenanigans going on today — and I’ve got a couple of doozies.

Will also said, “All I know is just what I read in the papers,” and I must admit to the same sources for my knowledge of the role of politicians and other bureaucrats in this pair of ludicrous happenings.

Both were reported in the daily press within the past week.

Both, might I add, are the result of the obsession of those who make the rules trying to cozy up to the sports franchises whose facilities you, dear reader, and I unwillingly financed.

It’s impossible to figure which of the two goings-on are the most ridiculous.

There’s the story of Brian J. Adams, 32, of Burlington, N.J., who was trying to dump four unused ducats to an Orioles game on June 10. Hey, he wasn’t a scalper in the true sense of the word. He had tickets he didn’t want — and offered a discount price.

Then there’s the story of the Baltimore Orioles who want the right — in the event they decide to do so — to rename Oriole Stadium at Camden Yards for a sweetheart deal like the Ravens got with their castle south of the where the Orioles play — or, of late, try to play.

What’s in a Name?

We built the Birds a stadium, provided who knows what else, and now that their annual payroll is $81.4 million — the fourth highest in the Major Leagues — it looks like they’re figuring we should pay part of that too. As if the high-priced tickets aren’t compensation enough. Looks like the Orioles front office never considered paying the near-cellar dwellers on the field what they’re worth. That would balance the budget pronto.

Oh no, that’s too simple. The fellows above — let’s call them bean counters — look with envious eyes at the Ravens, who made the biggest sweetheart deal Maryland has even seen, the road to which was greased by those we elected to office.

The Ravens paid a paltry $10 million in 1997 — some players make more than that in a season — to the Maryland Stadium Authority for the naming rights of their big purple eyesore we also built. Then ‘our’ NFL team promptly accepted an offer from PSINet to put its name on the temple for $105.5 million.

This, of course, didn’t escape notice by the Orioles. For some curious reason, they seem to think they’re entitled to the same sort of deal. You know, two wrongs make a right. Are we to believe the Orioles when they say nothing is definite? Believe that and I’ll sell you a bridge in Brooklyn.

Pardon me if I’m wrong, but don’t you think we’re entitled to a spoonful of that gravy? Especially when we take into consideration that the rent the Orioles pay the Stadium Authority runs about a million bucks shy of meeting the annual $7.5 million costs of operating and maintaining the big birdhouse.

We’re told the Orioles naming rights might be worth even more than what the Ravens got. Let’s not forget that FedEx shelled out $205 million to rename Jack Kent Cook Stadium even before JKC’s remains had cooled — and that’s for about 10 pigskin frolics a year. The Orioles have 81 home games, though the way the team’s playing at this point no one is figuring on adding post-season play to the exposure.

In all of this, let’s not overlook that when big-time football and baseball came to Baltimore, the games were played in a single stadium, and one named in honor of a bunch of guys and gals who paid much more than PSINet and FedEx combined.

That old stadium on the north side of the city was Memorial Stadium, so named for those who fought for their country. That doesn’t count for much any more. It’s not revenue producing, which sports is all about these days.

Go Directly to Jail

Now, let’s visit the Sad Saga of Brian J. Adams, where we see another example of the greed in professional sports. We can’t blame him for not wanting to see the birds play that night of June 10, but what’s he supposed to do, eat the tickets?

Like any of us, he tried to cut his losses. He went to the stadium and had the audacity to try selling them, and not at a profit. He was willing to take a loss. What he ended up losing was 20 hours of his life in the hoosgow.

Seems trying to sell tickets at less than the going price is almost as bad as selling them at inflated prices. The Orioles don’t like competition, so six years ago owner Peter Angelos sweet-talked the Baltimore City Council into banning all ticket sales within a mile of the stadium we built.

Poor Brian J. Adams didn’t know about this, and if he did, how was he supposed to know where that mile boundary is? Undercover officers nabbed him as his pregnant wife looked on. The cuffs were put on, then he was taken to the slammer like any common criminal. The official charge: violating provisions of the city’s Scalp Free Zone.

If charges had to be filed, it might have been more appropriate to charge him with attempted petty larceny seeing that the tickets — though less than the list tab — were still overpriced for what the buyer should get at a stadium where people can’t have much fun anymore.

But come to think of it, what’s wrong with buying a ticket, a hundred tickets or even 10,000, then selling them for what one wants? Isn’t getting into entrepreneurship supposed to be the American way?

As I understand it, scalping is something akin to buying commodities. You’re betting on what you think something will be worth. Countless thousands do it, among them the First Lady who once made a small fortune on the Chicago Board of Trade.

That doesn’t help Brian J. Adams, who next week must return to the city of the crime to stand before a solemn judge. The way the politicians and bureaucrats bow to sports interests, if I were Brian, I’d have my affairs in order and a satchel packed when I entered the courthouse.

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly