In selling tickets to yesterday's playoff game with the New England Patriots (a.k.a., Our Boys), the San Diego Chargers (a.k.a., Them) did their best to keep their home field advantage. When the last few tickets went on sale, they refused to sell them to Patriots fans (unless those fans happened to have a local credit card billing address).
This practice doesn't seem all that sporting, but on the local news the other evening, they noted that it's actually legal. Here's the story (from the LA Times):
The Chargers, who Sunday will play host to only their second playoff game in a decade, have adopted a philosophy embraced by the surliest of wave riders: Locals only.
When the team sold its remaining 1,000 tickets for Sunday's divisional game against New England, only Southern California residents were eligible. The seats were sold Monday through Ticketmaster — the allotment was gone in 10 minutes — and residency was determined by the credit-card billing addresses. Out-of-area orders were canceled.
"Our No. 1 goal through this was to take care of our fans, the people who have supported us year-round," Chargers spokesman Bill Johnston said. "We did it in hopes of filling our stadium with Charger fans."
Linebacker Shawne Merriman said getting home-field advantage "was the goal since day one….We've seen what it can do with us. Having that 12th man when the crowd is loud and it's hard to audible can make some things happen."
Hey, I can sit here thinking that it's kind of mean-spirited of the Chargers, and that the whole thing sounds like restraint of trade. But what I'm really charged up about is the use of Ticketmaster to do their dirty work for them. If they'd announced that there were 1000 tickets for sale, and said that the first 500 fans to show up at the stadium could each buy two, I'd have been fine with that. If they'd sold them on their own Web-site and said that you had to show your colors in order to buy a ticket. Well, that's fine, too. Maybe not all that fair play-ish, but it's their stadium and their fan base.
It's getting a "neutral" third party involved in the plan that I really don't like. (Not that I like Ticketmaster much to begin with, but this I really, really don't like.) Shouldn't Ticketmaster be an equal-opportunity seller? What's next? Walk up to buy a ticket on game-day and they ask to see your driver's license or passport. If you're not a local, you're out of luck. (That is, of course, for a game that's expected to sell-out. I'm sure that there isn't a major league sports team on earth that won't sell a ticket to anyone who's willing to pay if they expect a few open seats.)
As it happens, despite the loud-proud Chargers fans trying to drown out Tom Brady's audibles, Our Boys managed to pull off a win in a squeaker - and a sloppy, nerve-wracking game - over Them. (Apparently, playing before a full, charged up house turned out to be just the ticket.)
Maybe it's just as well that there weren't an extra thousand or so Pats' fans there. You read all the time about fans for "the other team" who get verbally abused and beaten up after a game, depending on the outcome (and how much beer was consumed). I hate to think of those poor Patriots fans running for their lives... They need to save themselves for next weeks showdown against the Colts. I wonder if there's any tickets left in the RCA Dome in Indianapolis - and whether they'd sell them to any New Englanders even if there were.