Cold Ones With Matty Ice: Ticket Scalping 101

Matthew GalkaCorrespondent INovember 22, 2009

Let me address some questions that I’m sure to get. The first question, I’m guessing, is “who the hell are you and what is with the ‘Matty Ice’ nickname, didn’t you steal that from Matt Ryan?”

I joined B/R a year and a half ago, wrote two articles, and then took a hiatus.  Probably not too cool, but oh well here I am now.  As for the nickname, did I steal it? Maybe. A buddy in grad school gave it to me and it is here to stay, so who am I to complain? Besides, it does make for a good theme title to the column. 

With that out of the way, let us get on with the show here.

There are a few things that can deviate sports fans from their general excitement about a specific sport or team and take them to a level of elation.  Those things are, in no particular order, a favorite team winning a championship, meeting a player (specifically a favorite, legend, or “big time” player), beating a rival, and going to a game itself. 

The last point, going to the game itself, can warrant different levels of elation, depending on the importance of the game, obviously, but there is still something special about attending a game, especially if you do not have season tickets and do not make it a routine thing.  This is where my story comes in.

When you are born in Connecticut, you have all your neighboring big market pro teams to choose from, and locally you have the UCONN men and women’s basketball team who put my little state on the sports map.

I was born and raised on UCONN, but after attending Syracuse for college, my allegiances shifted to the Orange.  Growing up in Connecticut, I was a Connecticut fan but did not go to many games, I’m a Yankee fan but will never be “as big a Yankee fan” as the fans who actually live in the city, so being an alumni of Syracuse makes me feel that I can actually call them “my team” and no one can one up my fandom like they can with other teams (except if you have lived in upstate New York your whole life, then I truly feel sorry for you). 

With Syracuse playing No. 4 UNC at Madison Square Garden Friday night, I had the chance to take my excitement for Syracuse to elation by going to see an important game in person.

The night had all the makings of a classic one. My buddy Pax and I were going to hop the train into the city, scalp a couple tickets, and go wherever the night took us…in theory.  Neither of us was ready for what actually would happen.

Everything started off according to plan.  There was a train leaving New Haven destined for Grand Central Friday night that would get us into the city about five minutes after the game started, this would be perfect because scalpers lower their prices after the game starts and we weren’t looking to break the bank. 

Before hopping the train, we stop off at a store to pick up a few adult beverages for the train ride in, after all the train ride is almost two hours and we would need something to pass the time.

After a train ride that saw us polish off our fair share of drinks and witness a girl get up in the middle of the train and do the “Cupid Shuffle,” we were about ready to get into this game.  The only thing missing was the tickets, but as soon as we walked in front of MSG and saw plenty of scalpers, we were feeling pretty confident about our chances of getting a good deal. That was our first mistake.

I consider myself a pretty savvy and street smart guy, even more so after I’ve had a few, so I approach a gentleman selling some tickets and believe I will get the upper hand on this guy.

“How much you want?” I ask.

“50 each,” replies the scalper.

“Absolutely not, dude, no one is going to buy them for that!”

Yes, I got him right where I want him! Or so I thought.

“Yea whatever, we’ll see,” he says, and we start to walk away.

Seeing this transpire, other scalpers swarm to my friend and I like lions to a dead zebra, saying things like “My man! My man! I can do better!”

One guy in particular takes me aside and says “how much you willing to pay?” Now my friend and I had agreed that we are going to try to get two for 50 bucks, a reach, but at this point we start to think it is attainable.

I shoot back “50 for two,” drawing a “C’mon Man!” look from my new ticket agent. He replies “what about 60?’

At that point, I had figured that my friend and I had won. 60 bucks for two tickets that are 25 dollars each face value. Five dollars over face is a win in my book, so naturally I jumped at this offer, which was our second mistake.

What was about to transpire should go down in sports history as one of the biggest oversights, right up there with drafting Bowie before Jordan and mostly any move made by the Raiders in the past decade.

After I accepted the offer, the guy shouted for his friend with the tickets, a man named Kermit. Is it possible that this guy’s name was actually Kermit? Sure. Do I believe it was his actual name and not a nickname? Absolutely not.

Over to my friend and I came waddling a very short man who, upon further review, did indeed have very frog-ish facial features.  The only thing that was missing was an actual “ribbit” noise.  Kermit did no talking, instead just shoved tickets at us and made hand motions indicating for us to hand over the money. 

We paid the 60 bucks, and after doing so, our new friend Kermit scampered off.  The other guy who had been doing all the talking then says, “Alright now give me 10 dollars.”

“10 dollars? For what?!” I fire back.

“I hooked up you man, 10 dollars c’mon!”

“Get out of here man, you didn’t do anything, we’re not paying you any money.”

“Dude, that is effed up!” he said.

A few more expletives are exchanged, but it ends there, as my friend and I happily trot into MSG ready to the rest of the game.

You are all probably familiar with the ticket system at most stadiums now.  The worker scans the tickets and the scanner lets out a high-pitched beep that signifies you are good to go in. Pax and I are standing in line behind a few people, hearing the beeps and watching the people walk into the game. It then came time for us to show our tickets.

I am so pumped at this point its unbelievable. My favorite team vs. the fourth ranked defending national champion at the Garden! It can’t get any better!

Unfortunately, there was no high-pitched beep.

Instead, what we had heard was a low sound effect emanating from the machine signifying that our tickets had already been used and there was no re-entry.  The machine might as well have said “whomp whomp whomp,” in my face.

The ticket guy looked at me like a disappointed mother to say, “Did you buy these from someone outside?” I could only nod my head, drawing a look of disgust from the two employees at the door.

“Now what?” I say to Pax.           

“I want my effing money back!” he says. “Let’s go find Kermit!”

We storm outside MSG like two men on a mission, a mission to get justice from the scalper who sold us bad tickets. Kermit is nowhere in site, go figure, but the guy who wanted 10 dollars was.

“Nice fake tix your boy sold us,” said Pax.

“Whatchu talking about?” he asks.

“Your boy, he sold us some fake tickets, dude.”

“Oh man. I aint never known Kermit to sell no bad tix! If you paid me the 10 dollars I woulda walked in with ya!”

His logic was undeniable. Had we simply paid him 10 more dollars, we probably would have been in the game at that point, because he, the scalper, would have walked in with us to “make sure the tickets work.” How could I have been so stupid to not realize he had that kind of pull at MSG.

Kermit is still missing, although we did get a tip that we could find him “hanging out at Penn Station near the Long Island railroad stops.” 60 dollars probably was not worth a manhunt, although at that point I felt like it was.

I was upset that I not only was taken for money, but I couldn’t even see my beloved Orange.  Pax was upset about the money, but not taking it as hard as me.

“Listen man, karma will take its course. I mean, its only 30 bucks each, not that big of a deal,” he said, in an effort to lift my spirits up.

He was right. 30 bucks to that scalper is probably a bigger deal to him than it is to me. He robbed me of more than my money, though, he robbed me of the chance to see my team!

Looking back, there are multiple red flags that should have been picked up, and had they been, our fate might have changed. The willingness of the price change, the box office still being open when we walked in and the failure to check if they had tickets before we scalped, the fact that the guy’s name was Kermit; all warning signs that were missed.

I found comfort in the fact that ‘Cuse was up by 20 points at the time of the fake ticket discovery, and they ultimately ended up winning. Pax and I didn’t let the experience with the scalper ruin our night, and we continued on to a bar to meet up with his girlfriend and other friends.

On the walk there, we saw the Red Bull car, and the girls driving gave us two free Red Bulls, their last two.  Karma.

The night turned into a good one filled with friends, a ‘Cuse win, and the city atmosphere. I rationalized that the free Red Bull was actually a 30-dollar Red Bull. It was the best one I ever had.


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