I am not a devoted sports fan, but I enjoy watching the University of Illinois football and basketball teams play, if the weather is nice and I don't have something more important to do. In the 25 years I have lived in Champaign-Urbana, I attend an average of one or two football and basketball games. I always buy tickets just before the game from people who have extra tickets or street vendors (sometimes pejoratively called "scalpers," but I think that is unfair because they provide a valuable service for which they should be compensated.) I never buy tickets at the box office because I figure that the only tickets the box office will have left at that late date will be in the upper reaches of the stadium or Assembly Hall.
Yesterday I received a text message from my brother (the "Sensible One,") suggesting an outing with our sons to see Illinois play Southeastern Missouri State University play Illinois in basketball. That was a good idea because the students are still not back from their Christmas break, and Southeastern is not a name opponent so there should be plenty of seats available.
I didn't get to any basketball games last year when Illinois played for the national championship, but I knew that there was more demand for tickets now than back in the days when Illinois routinely competed for the Big 10 championship but didn't get far in the NCAA tournament. When the teams aren't doing well, I can usually get tickets on the street for face value, or less. Because of the basketball's team's recent successes, I thought I would have to pay at least face value, $20, or a little more. I was prepared to go another $10 or $20 a ticket.
Imagine my shock after we found a parking space and encountered the first street vendor who said $60 a ticket or two for $100. I told the man he was crazy we would buy some up closer to the Assembly Hall from people who had extra tickets. But when we got up close to the hall, there wasn't anyone with multiple tickets. Either they had sold them all before they got that close or they had only an individual ticket. Since there were five of us, we figured we might not all be able to sit together, but we didn't want to take the risk of buying one ticket at a time and then one of us not being able to get a ticket, so we passed on the single tickets.
Being the experienced last minute ticket buyer, I still thought that as game time approached, the price of the scalpers would come down, but I was wrong. At five minutes before game time, we headed back out to the parking lot and the scalpers were still demanding $60 a ticket or two for $100.
The price of success was just a little too much for us. We headed back to the bar where we had eaten our dinners and watched the game for free on television.