Ken Druck wants to go to the Super Bowl. As a trained observer--a clinical psychologist--he hopes to take in the "larger than life" atmosphere.
What he doesn't want to do is spend hundreds, much less thousands, of dollars for the chance.
"A lot of us are trying to rationalize how we're the host city, we own a piece of real estate in the stadium (as Charger season ticket holders), and here we are scrounging," said Druck, who lives in Del Mar.
Scrounging is the operative word.
One Rude Awakening
Scores of San Diegans, regardless of rank, profession or social standing, seem to be making the rude discovery that procuring tickets to this year's Super Bowl is no simple task.
The game, scheduled for Jan. 31 in San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, was, of course, a sellout long ago. The only sure way of getting a ticket seems to be through an employee of a National Football League team, or by having high-placed connections in San Diego.
All sorts of people one would think might have tickets don't have and say they won't have because they just can't get them.
All are unwilling to pay scalpers' prices. Prices at local ticket agencies are running anywhere from $750 for end-zone seats to as much as $3,000 for 50-yard-line seats. The face value of all the tickets is $100.
"I'm ready to go into my two-minute drill," said Druck, a regular contributor to television's "Hour Magazine" as well as "The Oprah Winfrey Show." Druck is the author of the best-selling "The Secrets Men Keep."
Where to find list-price Super Bowl tickets seems to be the best-kept secret in America.
"I'm getting too old to picture myself running after tickets in front of the stadium," he said. "Scalping has become an institution. I would never pay $400 for something that might be a depressing experience. I'd pay it, and then my team would lose."
Might Turn to Ali
Druck, who said he's a friend of Muhammad Ali's, has even thought of calling "The Greatest" to see if he has tickets.
"The game is larger than San Diego," Druck said. "Very rarely do we host events larger than San Diego. It would be a lot of fun. . . . How many things happen here in a year that loom considerably larger than the city? We have to have an earthquake to get national news."
Dr. James C. Pietraszek, a plastic surgeon in La Jolla, said he "could never justify" meeting a scalper's ransom.
"I see this game as a prerogative of large corporate America," he said. "All the tickets are
bought up by large corporations as perks for clients or employees. They're willing to spend whatever it takes--I'm not.
"I'd like to be on the next space shuttle or fly the Concorde every time I go to Europe, but I can't do that, either. It's not that it's too expensive . . . I just can't rationalize doing it. Besides, the Super Bowl is usually boring. Serves all those people right to get a boring game."
Raymond Vecchio, an attorney in Hillcrest, has three football-fanatic brothers living in Cleveland. The Vecchios would spend almost anything to see their beloved Browns in their first-ever Super Bowl--but not $3,000 a ticket.
Family fanaticism is being tested.
"That's a little bit ridiculous," Vecchio said. "So, I've pretty much given up going to it. I'll have to be satisfied watching at home."
Shortage Is Assailed
Vecchio said he was disillusioned about how tickets are distributed.
"I don't understand why there's such a shortage," he said. "Apparently, these (ticket) agencies have them. How did they get them?"
Agents for scalpers claim to have "scrounged" for months, to use Druck's word, in cities across the country, hoping to line up even the prospect of tickets. They then buy from anyone who has them, paying huge prices themselves and later reselling those tickets at fees approaching "several grand."
Most say that even they never pay face value, thus the reason for the booming mark-up.
"I called a friend and he said tickets would be in the $800 to $1,000 range," said Dr. Barnet Meltzer, who specializes in preventive medicine. "I decided to shine it on. I don't mind spending $200 but any more is just absurd. I'll have a nice party at home."
Susan Lopez, a laboratory technician at Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation, has been a Charger season ticket holder for 13 seasons.
"I have no options (for getting tickets)," she said. "Unless I'm offered them through the (Charger season ticket holder lottery), I have no prayer. But I haven't heard, so I guess I won't. I heard season ticket holders were notified earlier this week. I wasn't notified.
"I'd like to go, but . . . I went once in L.A.--we bought from a scalper. I'm sure as the game draws near and the teams are determined, maybe we'll hear more. Maybe something will turn up when least expected. I realize I probably won't go. I will be interested to see the longtime season ticket holders who go or rather don't go."
It Took the Luck of the Draw
Local season ticket holders like Lopez had to rely strictly on luck this year to procure a ticket. The Chargers, which are awarded a percentage of the tickets because of being the host team, conducted a lottery to distribute their 7,030 tickets by drawing the name of every season ticket holder into a bin.
Dr. Michael Roark is a plastic surgeon and a Charger season ticket holder for four years. He has yet to score a ticket to the game, despite exploring several avenues.
A friend from college is a former executive with the Chargers. Roark is hoping his friend can get him a ticket.
So far, he hasn't.
Roark said he would pay $300 but no more. Unlike a lot of people, he isn't angry or disillusioned. He rationalizes that it's a "national event," that the game doesn't belong to San Diego, though the stadium does.
Still, he wishes longtime Chargers' season ticket holders like Susan Lopez stood a better chance.
"People who have been watching that team for 25 years, sure, they should have a shot," Roark said. "For them, it ought to be first-come, first-served."
Not even local talk show host Larry Himmel of "San Diego at Large," seen on KFMB-TV, Channel 8, has gotten a ticket. He said sportscaster Ted Leitner did offer to scalp him two tickets.
"Without a doubt, it would be very difficult to get tickets," Himmel said, "so I haven't tried real hard. I don't even know anybody who knows anybody who's got tickets--other than Ted.
"That's how difficult, and how crazy, this whole mess is."