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April 17th, 2013 MATTHEW KORFHAGE, AARON MESH | Sports
 

Ticket Masters

Timbers Army members take the fight against scalping into their own hands.

news2_3924ILLUSTRATION: Amy Martin
Matt Braddock wasn’t about to let a fellow Portland Timbers fan pay $80 for a $25 ticket.

Before the Timbers match against the San Jose Earthquakes on April 14, Braddock saw a scalper trying to sell a ticket outside Jeld-Wen Field—and then put himself between the buyer and seller.

“I told the person where to find at-cost tickets,” says Braddock, “and the scalper got in my face.”

The scalper and Braddock, 32, exchanged profanities. Braddock, a U.S. Army soldier who lost a leg to a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2005, says he was walking away when another scalper blindsided him with a punch.

“Somebody warned me, and I turned around and got popped in the nose,” says Braddock. He responded by wrestling the scalper to the pavement.

The altercation between Braddock and the scalper may have been unusual for its violence but not its intensity.

Members of the Timbers Army have been confronting scalpers all season, interrupting the dealmaking and telling would-be customers the Army offers a ticket exchange where people can buy tickets at face value.

Some Timbers Army members say a ticket is akin to a community good that everyone should have equal access to. And they say scalpers—when they gouge buyers—are exploiting fans and pricing some out of the market.

This belief—reflecting devotion among many Army members bordering on a sense of team ownership—has turned increasingly confrontational.

Many Timbers Army members have taken after the scalpers like a neighborhood watch group going after drug dealers on the street corner outside an elementary school.

“People like to get up in the scalpers’ face and ask them stupid questions,” says Niall McCusker, a longtime Timbers fan. “They’ve decided they don’t like them.”

Braddock confirms he and others are trying to take away the scalpers’ business. The official Timbers Army Twitter account says it’s the scalpers who are antagonistic. 

“The city needs to ban scalpers who are getting more and more aggressive with each game,” says an April 14 tweet. It also linked to a YouTube video of an alleged scalper yelling an obscene suggestion at a fan.


Garrett Dittfurth, communications co-chairman for the Timbers Army’s 107ist organization, says scalpers are using hard-sell tactics at ticket lines and MAX stations. 

He also confirms that Timbers Army members are interrupting sales. “What you see is a lot of scalpers are trying to negotiate high prices,” Dittfurth says, “and someone will walk up and say they’ll sell them at face value. The scalpers freak out on them.”

Ticket scalping is legal in Oregon, but in the 1970s, in the heat of the original Blazermania, Portland banned it for events held at city-owned venues, such as Jeld-Wen.

That rule has been difficult to enforce; a Multnomah County district judge struck down part of the ordinance as unconstitutional in 1988. The judge dismissed the case against 24-year-old MacDuffie McCool, who was waving two Tina Turner tickets outside Memorial Coliseum.

Scalping Timbers tickets is a wide-open practice outside Jeld-Wen. 

“We don’t devote resources to where people aren’t complaining,” says Sgt. Pete Simpson, a Portland Police Bureau spokesman. “If the Timbers were to want a ticket crackdown, we’d be happy to have that conversation.”

The Portland Timbers’ front office didn’t return calls from WW regarding scalpers outside Jeld-Wen.

Simpson says police have no record of a fight being reported outside Jeld-Wen on April 14.

Braddock says police told him and the scalper they would take both men to the police station if Braddock elected to pursue charges. Braddock decided to watch the game instead.

He says it wasn’t his first time breaking up a scalper’s transaction, and he has no regrets.

Scalping, Braddock says, “is a despicable career path.” 

 
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