Super Bowl ticket is a badge of honor

Having a ticket to Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis is an entrée for so much more than just 60 minutes of football, Tom Brady vs. Eli Manning, a rematch of one of the finest title games in sports history.

No, a Super Bowl ticket is more than just the hottest commodity in sports. It’s the rare event that surpasses team loyalty, sports fandom and regional bias. This ticket means entry into a different world, membership into this elite fraternity of the well-off and well-connected, the diehard fan crowd and the gotta-do-before-you-die crowd. The tickets to America’s unofficial winter holiday are worn on a lanyard like a badge of honor: I got mine. I’m in.

Of course, for $16,480, you better be getting a lot more than just a football game.

That’s the highest price paid for a ticket to the New England Patriots-New York Giants rematch on the NFL Ticket Exchange by Ticketmaster, underscoring the truth behind the Visa commercial that calls the Super Bowl the “the most epic day in America.”

“The Super Bowl ticket is like the Holy Grail for sports fans,” said Jennifer Swanson, spokesperson for NFL Ticket Exchange by Ticketmaster, an online marketplace for tickets. “I enjoy watching from home, too. But there’s nothing like being there. There’s electricity in the air that permeates everything you do. The beer’s colder, food tastes better. Just something about being there. I’d like to say can’t put price on it, but obviously you can.”

Specifically: $4,337 per ticket. That’s the average price a Super Bowl XLVI ticket has gone for on the NFL Ticket Exchange. (Looking for a deal? Well, the cheapest of the nosebleed seats at Lucas Oil Stadium is going for $2,600 — a good bit more than the face value of Super Bowl tickets, which run between $800 and $1,200.)

Quite a difference from Super Bowl I back in 1967, when the average ticket price was $12 — and the game didn’t even sell out.

“It’s a very complex marketplace that cannot be broken down to Patriots vs. Giants,” said Darren Rovell, the CNBC sports business reporter. “There’s obviously no public sale. There’s brokers who make a bet before the Super Bowl, people in New York who buy for $2,500 and sell for $4,500. Sometimes when it works out for average guy it’s often too late.”

An average guy like Bruce Scheib, a 55-year-old laborer at General Mills from just north of Cincinnati, isn’t deterred. He knows his chances are slim, but he’s posted an ad on Craigslist to try and get a ticket for less than $1,000. No luck yet, so he plans to drive the 90 minutes to Indianapolis on Super Bowl Sunday, bring $1,000 in cash, and take a shot. Maybe a scalper will get desperate a few minutes before kickoff and dump a ticket for $1,000. Probably not. But he knows it’s the closest the Super Bowl will ever get to his hometown.

“It’s a chance of a lifetime to actually go to something like this,” Scheib said. “But if not I can still soak in the atmosphere."

Here’s how Super Bowl tickets are distributed: 75 percent go to the 32 NFL teams, who hold lotteries among their season-ticket holders, while the NFL retains 25 percent. Of the 75 percent that go to the 32 NFL teams, the Giants and the Patriots get 17.5 percent each. The host team — in this case, the Indianapolis Colts — gets 5 percent. And the remaining 29 teams get 1.2 percent each.

From there, tickets get sliced and diced, and often end up on online marketplaces like the NFL Ticket Exchange, Stubhub and Craigslist. If you’re wondering who is going to have the home-crowd advantage in Indy, it’s the Giants: Stubhub has sold twice as many tickets to New York and New Jersey than to New England states.

Prices vary per Super Bowl, but on Stubhub, the median ticket price is going for a bit less than $3,000 — about 10 percent less than last year, but far greater than in Super Bowl XLIV between the Saints and Colts, when media ticket prices on Stubhub bottomed out at $2,000. For the price of a nice week’s vacation to the Caribbean, some families decide to take a February vacation to a stadium.

Much to the excitement of 11-year-old Evan Cronin, a diehard Giants fan in Holland, Michigan.

When the Giants won the Super Bowl four years ago, his mother, Lynn — a cardiologist, and also a diehard Giants fan originally from New Jersey — made her son a promise: The next time the Giants are in the Super Bowl, they’ll go. She never thought it would come true this quickly. They went on Stubhub and bought general seating tickets for $2,500 apiece.

“Oh my God, he’s helping me make dinner. ‘Mom, can I clean house?’ He’s over the moon, just so happy,” Cronin said. “If the Giants made it every year, I’d have to revise the promise. But this is once in a lifetime. He’s at that magic age. It means so much to him. He still loves his mommy and daddy and this is perfect timing. This is like my son’s coming-of-age thing.”

Yeah, you could watch on television. That’s what most of us do. After all, you’d save oodles of cash, and you get to see all those wonderful commercials.

But there’s just something about being there that can’t be replaced.

“That feeling of knowing that you’re one of 70,000 people that are witnessing firsthand this unofficial holiday,” said NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy. “There’s nothing like that emotion and that energy that you feel when the ball is being kicked and you look up in the stands, all these people in jerseys who traveled from around country to get here, and you see grown men and women crying because they’re at this game. You have to be there to understand what it’s like.”

You can follow Reid Forgrave on Twitter @reidforgrave, become a fan on Facebook or email him at reidforgrave@gmail.com.