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Lucky winners can buy tickets at face value
By Darren Rovell
ESPN.com

NEW ORLEANS -- The face value of any recent Super Bowl ticket (this year: $400) is quite deceptive, considering that most of the people who occupy seats either didn't pay anything (NFL corporate sponsors or television partners) or paid at least twice the listed price through a broker.

Super Bowl XXXVI tickets
Face value of this year's Super Bowl tickets is $400, but few people actually pay that little.
But the $400 price tag does mean something to the 500 NFL fans who pay that price after winning pairs of tickets in the still relatively little-known Super Bowl ticket lottery.

The lottery is such a mystery that shrewd online auctioneers have been offering to sell information on how to enter.

This year, 24,901 people submitted legitimate entries to the NFL Super Bowl ticket lottery. Each faced roughly 50-to-1 odds of winning the right to buy two tickets -- with only 500 pairs of tickets available. (The lottery has offered the same number of tickets for more than a decade).

From February through June, the league accepts entries, which are then sorted for duplicates and entered into a computer. People who know about the lottery do all they can to get a face-value deal, including surreptitiously submitting entries under the names of friends and neighbors.

"If you get (entries from) the whole block ... you know you're in trouble," said Jim Steeg, the NFL's senior vice president of special events. "We always have a number of people that win that never applied. Someone says, 'Maybe my neighbor or friend will win,' but they never tell them."

Steeg says the NFL doesn't advertise the lottery because it would increase the number of entries and thus reduce the chances of winning. As it is, the vast majority of Super Bowl tickets go to corporate partners, leading some to criticize the league for shutting out the average fan.

"It's like going to a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden," said New England Patriots special teamer Larry Izzo. "There are not a lot of people from the Queens or the Bronx there. There are a lot of guys in suits and ties, and maybe that's not right, but that's life."

But Steeg said that criticism is unfair. "They think that Coca-Cola shouldn't be allowed to get 200 tickets," Steeg said. "But the NFL fan isn't only the guy who wears face paint and goes to every game. The NFL fan is also the corporation that buys up season-ticket packages."

All NFL players receive two Super Bowl tickets free, and players on the competing teams are allowed to buy up to 13 additional tickets at face value.

Check please
To some players, playoff and Super Bowl bonus money reaches significant proportions. As a practice-squad player with the San Francisco 49ers this season, rookie wide receiver Jimmy Farris made $4,000 a week for 17 weeks ($68,000). But then he signed on with New England for the postseason run, where he'll make a total of $57,250 if the Patriots win on Sunday.

Since he has spent less than three games with his team, Farris will receive only half the postseason bonus that the other Patriots players receive. He made $8,500 for New England's win over Oakland and $17,250 for the AFC championship game against Pittsburgh. Farris is guaranteed at least another $17,250 for the team's Super Bowl appearance.

"Yeah, I know how much I'll make down to the penny," Farris said. "I got some bills to pay off like on my Cadillac Escalade."

Ring bearers
Competition for the Super Bowl ring account is fierce, despite the fact that officials for the ring-making companies say they only break even or even lose money making the rings.

"It's not a financial windfall," said Mark Cassutt, manager of corporate communications for Jostens.

After the Super Bowl, officials at Jostens and Henry Kay Jewelers, among others, will meet with the winning team to pitch their proposals. Jostens, which has made rings for 23 of the 35 Super Bowl winners, plans to show the team custom-made designs that might include a team phrase.

"The team loves to know you're following them," said John Abel, the company's national sports marketing manager. Last year, the rings made for the Baltimore Ravens said Invictus -- "unconquered," in Latin -- on both sides of the ring.

Henry Kay president Howard Kaplan says his representatives will show the winning Super Bowl team rings the company made for the Arizona Diamondbacks and for both of the Los Angeles Lakers' back-to-back NBA titles (the Lakers' 1999-2000 ring says "Bling, Bling" on them).

Each team is allotted $5,000 per ring from the NFL for up to 130 rings. Both companies say that the financial incentive to make the rings is the ancillary team jewelry deals that are tied into the deal.

Sitting on 40 large
A Patriots victory on Sunday will be cause for some serious celebration for a 43-year old Las Vegas lawyer named Joe, who doesn't own a single Patriots jersey or hat.

Joe, who requested that his last name not be used, said he bet less than $1,000 on NFL games this season, but at midseason he was somehow moved to put down $400 on the Patriots to win the Super Bowl. The team's record was 4-4 at the time, and the Imperial Palace sports book in Las Vegas had the Pats listed at 100-to-1 odds to win it all -- a $40,000 payout on his wager.

"Realistically, very few teams that are 14-point underdogs win," said Joe, who will watch the game in a Las Vegas sports book with this girlfriend and parents. "But I think they're only 14-point underdogs because the general public who might bet on the Super Bowl still don't know who the Patriots are."

Joe has watched every Patriots game since Week 10 as his investment has inched closer to paying off.

Cashing in
Don Yee, the agent for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, has predictably been getting more and more calls from companies inquiring about the availability of his rising star.

"There's been a steady increase in the number of calls over the course of the season," said Yee. Although Brady has no current endorsements, Yee said he's been "taking all the calls and fielding the proposals, and once the offseason hits I'll sit down with Tom and evaluate all the proposals."

Brady will appear in the traditional starting quarterbacks' "Got Milk?" print advertisement that was scheduled to run in Friday newspapers all around the country.

This just in
During the week leading up to the Super Bowl, companies and organizations issue some very important news releases that often are ignored. For example, the people at the California Avocado Commission (CAC) would like you to know that 26 million avocados will be consumed in the form of guacamole on Super Bowl Sunday. This, the commission says, is enough to cover the Louisiana Superdome field in a three-foot deep layer of dip.

And the people at Duracell would like you to know that the Super Bowl encourages families to be dysfunctional. According to its survey of more than 1,000 adults, 32 percent said they would "rather have the remote control at their side than their spouse or significant other."

Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at darren.rovell@espn.com.



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