Commentary

No shame in selling Wisconsin tickets

Updated: December 7, 2010, 2:54 PM ET
By Jemele Hill | ESPN.com

At 9 p.m. CT on Sunday, the University of Wisconsin athletic department website made 5,800 student tickets to the Rose Bowl available for sale.

At 9:20, they were gone.

[+] EnlargeWisconsin Fans
Scott Boehm/Getty ImagesThere's no doubt about the passion of Wisconsin fans.

An hour or so later, 33 students who had purchased Rose Bowl tickets at face value were being called "The Worst People On Campus" by their independent student newspaper.

These 33 students didn't light their tickets on fire.

They didn't flush them down the toilet.

Nor did they use their tickets as toilet paper.

According to The Badger Herald, these 33 students did something far more unforgivable and unholy. They put their tickets up for sale on Facebook, and some of them had the nerve to ask for double and triple the original price.

"Truly, there is a special place in Hell for people who buy Rose Bowl tickets with the sole intention of profiting from them," The Badger Herald said in an editorial published on Sunday night. "It is entirely unfair to those who actually love this football team and were counting on a cheap face value ticket in order to make the trip to Pasadena an economic reality."

If there's a special place in hell for someone who re-sells a ticket to a sporting event for more than face value, then hell is going to have an extensive waiting list.

And I'd be on it.

If we're comparing egregious crimes, I'd say it's pretty low to print the names of 33 students who, at worst, did something distasteful, and then to incite a fervent fan base to engage in some street justice.

"We'll keep printing names of those we catch on Facebook marketplace," the editorial read. "And feel free to send an email to editor@badgerherald.com if you know of anybody whose name should be added to the list -- particularly the 100 people who have already made a listing on Craigslist."

To no one's surprise -- except those at The Badger Herald -- this stunt created a few problems.

Kevin Bargnes, the editor-in-chief, said some of the students named to "The Worst People On Campus" list aren't too happy with the newspaper because now they're receiving menacing e-mails, Facebook messages and calls from irate Badgers fans who are questioning their loyalty.

I guess paying thousands of dollars in tuition isn't being loyal enough.

Eric Ballecer, one of the 33 students who is now a symbol of global evil, hates that he's been unfairly characterized as a bad fan. Ballecer, a senior neurobiology major, has been to every Wisconsin home game this season and traveled to see the Badgers play Michigan.

Offers climbed to as high as $650 within minutes after he put an extra Rose Bowl ticket up for sale, he said. That would certainly have helped finance his trip to the Rose Bowl, since he and a few friends are driving to Pasadena and staying at another friend's. Instead, he gave his second ticket (face value $150) to a friend, even though he clearly could have made a nice profit.

[+] EnlargeWisconsin
AP Photo/Morry GashThe Rose Bowl bid has Wisconsin players and students excited.

"I received a lot of not-so-nice messages," Ballecer said. "They called me a horrible fan, but they still wanted to buy my ticket."

I buy that Bargnes and his staff weren't trying to be malicious. And due to the avalanche of reaction, Bargnes said the newspaper won't be printing more names of people who are attempting to re-sell their student tickets.

The paper also added a disclaimer to its original post that reads: "All threats will be removed and reported to campus and city police. This piece is by no means meant to be a call to take action against the above individuals, simply a tongue-in-cheek commentary about an unfair ticketing practice, and we apologize if it was taken as anything more than that."

I'm not so much of an old geezer that I don't remember the dumb things we did at my college newspaper. We once used a random student's particularly hideous identification photo for an in-house advertisement. Another time we accidentally ran a photo of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, which was attacked during the Oklahoma City bombing, upside down.

The Badger Herald didn't act responsibly, but I understand the beef. The student ticket allotment wasn't created to give students a windfall, but rather to give students a presence at games they otherwise couldn't afford to attend.

Admittedly, selling tickets for more than face value is a contentious issue among fans, but these sales are as ingrained in sports culture as hot dogs and beer.

If Wisconsin wanted to undermine this capitalistic ticket culture, all the athletic department had to do -- and The Badger Herald pointed this out -- was require that the students pick up their tickets in person at the Rose Bowl. But since there is no such requirement, what the students do with their tickets is fair game.

As a Michigan State graduate, I'm jealous of every Badgers fan with a Rose Bowl ticket.

The Spartans haven't been to a Rose Bowl since 1988 and I'm still not over the fact MSU was shut out of a BCS bowl, despite finishing 11-1, beating Wisconsin and tying with the Badgers and Ohio State for a share of the Big Ten title. Had Michigan State gone to the Rose Bowl this season, I couldn't imagine selling my Rose Bowl ticket if I were a student.

Not even if I were offered double the price.

But if you tripled it, I'd have to think about it.

Jemele Hill can be reached at jemeleespn@gmail.com.

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