Basketball NBA

Warriors vs Suns. Scammers unite!

Long-time friends of ours, Duane and Michelle, planned a visit to the desert to catch up with us and another former colleague, Joe.  Of course, being from the Bay area, they were thrilled to learn the Warriors were in town.  For all I know, they might have even planned it that way, but it didn’t matter.  We were excited to spend some time with them.

The Suns are woeful this year – flirting with the worst record in the league, and yet they had the audacity to ask for more money for the “aging” Talking Stick Resort Arena.  We’re not talking a new coat of paint.  We’re talking $230M in renovations.

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The Suns have yet to win a Championship – reaching the NBA Finals twice in their history.  But what’s worse is, they haven’t sniffed the playoffs in almost a decade. And we’re not talking about just missing the cut.  They’ve averaged almost 30-games out over the last eight seasons – and it’s not looking any better this season.

The current owner, Robert Sarver, just doesn’t strike me as a guy who wants to win on the court.  Win in his bank account, yes, but not in the arena.  While the Suns were competitive when he took over ownership from beloved Valley icon, Jerry Colangelo, Sarver has a way of irritating and alienating fans – like when it was rumored he would move the team to Seattle if the city didn’t pony up.  Buh-bye.

I’m always eager to support local teams, even when the teams aren’t competitive, but when ownership is this aloof, it’s hard to support any funding. The timing couldn’t have been worse for Sarver, yet the geniuses in City Hall approved the funding thanks to a visitor tax. Many applauded the decision since it didn’t cost local taxpayers anything. Seriously? It’s no wonder our state is changing colors – but I digress.

Of course, with the Warriors in town, ticket prices were at a premium. The “get-in” price for every other game, except Lebron’s Lakers, were hovering around $7. Steph and the boys commanded much more. Weeks out, the “get-in” price was up to $175. When compared to the prices the Warriors fans pay, this was a bargain. With plenty of California transplants in the Valley, demand was already high. Add to that, many people traveled from the Bay area because of the relatively inexpensive tickets – and you have another reason for the increase in demand.

We scoured all of the normal ticket sites like Ticketmaster, StubHub, SeatGeek, and more, but prices remained high.  Thankfully, our friends understood that we didn’t particularly care to spend that kind of money to see our Suns lose, so we held out as long as we could.

I turned to Craig’s List and Offer Up the day of the game. Offer Up had very limited supply, but Craig’s List had several posts. The problem was, sorting through the obvious scammers to find somewhat legitimate sellers. Some were blatantly obvious scammers – usually all with a sob-story of why they couldn’t make the game. Son in the hospital out of town. Flight delays and cancellations. Working on the east coast and couldn’t make the trip back. Father in the hospital. It reminded me of Klinger’s character in M*A*S*H where he tried to come up with different excuses to try to get a leave.

Did you know the scammer payment of choice is Zelle or ChasePay? An easy way to sort through the scammers was to either offer to pay with PayPal for Goods or Services or to meet in person.  When I offered these options, the offers suddenly disappeared.

One offer had us optimistic. “She” offered the tickets and took either Zelle or meet in person in Eloy – about 45 minutes south of the Valley.  Since we planned on touring Friday during the day, I offered to meet in person to pick them up.  “She” seemed legit with redacted pics of the tickets including “her” name”. But when agreed to meet her in Eloy, she stopped responding. Sheesh….

We spent the day touring the Phoenix area – stopping to check all of the sites frequently for any deals.

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At this point, I knew our friends were getting a little nervous – having planned on attending the game – and finding out that friends of theirs from the Bay area were also in town for the game added to the drama. We discussed some options over margaritas at the famed Los Dos Molinos in South Phoenix.

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The pressure was on to find something, but lower bowl seats were now going for $200+ and uppers in the higher rows were hovering around $150. Still struggling, we decided to head downtown for an early dinner at one of our favorites, La Piazza Phx. It was there when Offer Up finally popped up with several tickets. Upper Level, Row 2 for $100 each. At this point, it almost seemed too good to be true. I sent my offer and exchanged messages with Dustin. Dustin was an admitted scalper who sets up shop at a hotel just across from the arena.

After I “politely” shared my frustration with dealing with scammers today, we agreed to meet. Michelle was skeptical but trusted me on this one. Having been dealing with scammers all day, she was now worried about the tickets being authentic, but I ensured Dustin would walk us through the entrance into the game.

Finally, we met with Dustin, agreed on the $100 without further negotiation, and we were escorted by our new friend through the turnstiles and into the game. Easy.

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My expectations for the Suns were realistically low, but as they say, “that’s why they play the game”. The home team was without arguably their best player in Devin Booker, but they fought valiantly against the reigning back-to-back NBA Champions (and 3-time champs over four years).

Inside, the arena was fairly full, but there were plenty of empty seats.  I was left wondering where all of those tickets went. My only guess is that corporate seats just sat empty for one of the best teams the league has seen.  Strange.

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The Suns stormed out to a 17-point lead in the first quarter behind rookie Deandre Ayton. The Warriors closed the gap to 5 by the end of the quarter, 31-26, then went on to take the lead at the half, 60-53.

Of course, one of the best halftime entertainment acts is the slam dunk crew!

Coming out of the half undeterred, the Suns stormed back to take the lead into the 4th, 85-82. That’s when it all fell apart for the Suns. Too much bench for the Warriors and a spent starting rotation – in a game where the Suns only dressed nine players, the Champs turned in a 35-22 quarter performance to close out the pesky Suns, 117-107.

We met up with Duane & Michelle’s friends after the game for a nightcap at the Arrogant Butcher – after being told there’d be a 45-minute wait at Bitter & Twisted. Steve said he’s been trying to travel to see the Warriors in different arenas throughout the country. He’s certainly a Wandering Spectator. We even learned a little about the cannabis business.

While we were there, we met up with some other Warriors fans. One of the guys was pretty wealthy, with a home in Scottsdale and one in the Bay area. He shared his disdain for the Warriors decision to charge PSLs for the new arena being built by the Warriors across the Bay in San Francisco. The guy was a season-ticket holder for over 30-years and told them to shove it.

I found it ironic that the Warriors, a perennial basement dweller until just recently, are playing in the oldest arena in the NBA.  Oracle Arena was built in 1966.  They went on a tear with the right combination of players and coaches and just now, after 3 NBA Championships, are moving into a new arena.  Yet, here are the Suns, pushing now for almost a quarter of a billion dollars for upgrades. SMDH.

Granted, Talking Stick Arena will be the 4th oldest arena in the NBA after the Warriors move – with Madison Square Garden taking over the oldest, followed by the Timberwolves and Jazz home courts, but the timing is just awful.  Even after appearing in 4 straight NBA Championships – and winning 3, the Warriors are still losing ticket holders due to price increases.

When I got home, a friend of mine posted a pic of him and his daughter at the game. Their seats? Courtside. I posted a pic of my view to show the contrast in vantage points.

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He responded with this statement;

“I was thinking about sharing my life lessons that I share with my kids, who have a very different upbringing than mine. Knowing the value of money is a subject we work on as parents every day on. In this case, I told my daughter that there is a budget for being a fan… Meaning, you can spend it on jerseys, you can spend it on going to games etc. When it came time to discuss going to games, I told her that she can see 6 games a year at a regular price, see 2 games at 3x the regular price or one game a year with all the budget… You know which one she picked. I picked the same choice when I was a kid. Everything we do in life is a choice, and small choices aggregated create life long memories as if you had all the money in the world… #reallife”

I could not agree more. Life is all about choices – and thankfully, he and I are in a position to make them. Not all are as fortunate.

That said, as evidenced by my write-ups, I love attending sporting events and therefore, I have to make tradeoffs if I want to see as many as possible.  I’ll trade a lower-level seat for two uppers any day.  Like the time we got 3 tickets for $40 in Atlanta. Now, if someone else is paying…that’s another story – like my time at Madison Square Garden. But even still, for certain events, like football, for example, I actually prefer uppers.

At the end of the day, we all got to see one of the best teams in NBA history AND spend time with some great friends and family.  And we did it without having to travel.

Stop wondering. Start wandering!

 

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