Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Supply and Demand: Seeing the Cavs for Cheap

Ever since the awful truth set in this fall, every Cavs fan has asked: Should I even bother going to a game this season? Which leads to a more capitalistic question: How much is a ticket to see a .200 team worth?

Tonight, Friday, and next Wednesday, as the Cavaliers’ season dribbles out to its deflated end, all the season ticket holders who re-upped in the LeBron Era’s final days and can’t stand the thought of watching the 62nd or 64th or 67th loss will be unloading their tickets on Flash Seats for almost any price.

For the frugal fan, it’s a wine-and-golden opportunity. For less than you paid for nosebleeds last season, you can see an NBA game from seats you never could’ve afforded during the good times.

A month or two ago, my friend Ian told me he and his girlfriend, Shana, had sat in the club level, the mezzanine where a wait staff brings food and drink to your seat, for $10 a ticket. Even with FlashSeats’ fees – 24 percent plus $1.50 plus tax – they’d paid less than $30 total for a pair of seats with a face value of $144 each.

So, the night before last month’s Cavs-Magic game, I huddled with Ian at his laptop, talking strategy, taking lowball shots at normally ridiculously expensive seats.

Ian, my most frugal friend, was the perfect point man for our bidding. He clips coupons and systematically scouts grocery sales, returning triumphantly with receipt-tape scrolls that proclaim, “You saved 86 percent!” Now, he punctured asking prices of $76.50 or $150 as ruthlessly as William Shatner on a Priceline commercial, bidding $11, $14, $15.

“Shouldn’t we go up to $20 on a few?” I asked. “What if no one accepts our bids?”

“I’m pretty confident we’ll get something,” he said calmly.

Sure enough, by morning, someone had taken our $15 offer. The site’s BidSafe feature automatically canceled our other pending bids, and a half-hour before tipoff, we were in. Ian handed over his credit card at the gate and a guy printed our tickets from a hand-held device. I gave Ian $27, but that’s only because we couldn’t find another friend to split our four seats four ways at $20.25.

It was my first Cavs game in the 100 level. The view from the club level is very good: straight on, the whole court stretched out in front of you. Instead of straining to identify the players by number and physique from the corners of Loudville, I recognized faces. (Well, a few faces. The roster’s changed a lot.) I was on the aisle, so hailing a waitress was easy. I ordered a hot dog and a Labatt’s and leaned back in my seat. It felt luxurious.

The flame-throwers still shoot out from the scoreboard before tipoff. Between quarters, instead of Moondog dunking with help from a trampoline, we saw a whole stunt-dunking troupe of Scream Team members and an athletic Cavalier Girl.

Ahmaad and Nicole, energetic as ever, reward seemingly every season-ticket holder who bravely renews for 2011-12 with a thank-you moment on the Jumbotron. The diehards’ faces are frozen, half stoic, half smiling at their own hopeful thick-and-thin fandom.

The game? Fun if you can forget it’s your team being dunked on and run ragged across the court. “The last game, they were more evenly matched,” Shana observed. “This is like watching a bully beat up a younger kid.”

Next year (if there’s no lockout), supply and demand will surely level off. Despite the team’s coaxing, many season-ticket holders will have quit on the Cavs, yet a first-round draft pick will spark a needle-twitch of curiosity among single-game buyers.

So I recommend bidding on the fire sale for the Cavs’ last three forlorn home games. Good seats for NBA basketball in Cleveland will never be so dirt-cheap again.

1 comment:

Ian Hoffman said...

Hey, I resemble those comments!

That was a very clever little piece and a good recap of our night at the Q.