Sold, not told

Scalping tickets for IU football has never been easy. Now, it’s even harder.


Indianapolis native Brian Stapleton, 50, awaits ticket buyers on Indiana Ave. before IU's homecoming football game against Michigan State. Stapleton, known more by his alias, Jeffery, has been scalping tickets for 18 years, and often ventures to Bloomington in hopes of making a profit, even though ticket sales for IU football are worst in the Big Ten. The ticket scalper on the street corner is a dying breed, as online sites like Stubhub and Ticketmaster are making scalping obsolete. Ben Mikesell and Ben Mikesell Buy Photos

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On a misty Saturday morning, the scalper stands at his corner, the stadium looming behind him. He’s right at the edge. The cops are watching, and if he walks a few feet north and crosses into IU property, he’s in danger of getting arrested.

“Tickets?” Jeffrey calls out to the masses shuffling his way. “You need tickets?”

He can see the hope in the fans’ eyes. It’s late August, and IU is playing its first game of the football season against Indiana State. Maybe this year will be different, the fans are telling themselves. Maybe the team will have its first winning record in the Big Ten since 1993. A good chunk of the players on this year’s squad weren’t even born then. Maybe IU will make it to a bowl. Any bowl.

Jeffrey is counting on their early-season optimism. As long as they still believe, his profits go up.

He sees a potential customer and holds up a pair of tickets. He can tell when someone wants to deal. There’s a certain walk. A look of purpose in their eyes. Jeffrey thinks the man walking toward him has that look.

“You need tickets, big guy?” Jeffrey asks. He talks fast and his voice is rough, because he’s been yelling his sales pitch for almost two 

“No,” the man says. “I’m fine.”

“Fifty-yard line, 50-yard line big man,” Jeffrey says. “Put her in the front!”

The man is alone. The rhetorical woman is just part of Jeffrey’s pitch.

The guy walks past, avoiding eye contact. Jeffrey doesn’t take it 

“You’ll get 15,000 no’s before you hear a yes,” he says. “You can’t be sensitive in this business.”

He needs to make some money off today’s game. He has an ex-wife, five kids, bills to pay. So he tries one last time before the man disappears.

“Put her in the front, home opener,” Jeffrey yells at the guy’s back. The man doesn’t even glance over his shoulder.


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