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How will ticket scalpers deal with the digital age?

Not that long ago, the experience of going to a college football game meant not only navigating strange and confusing traffic patterns but also hordes of shady-looking people standing on street corners with signs saying, “I need tickets!”

The same folks would always be holding about a dozen tickets in their hand, which made me wonder why they needed more — especially for a game against Vanderbilt.

They were, of course, selling the tickets. Maybe the ones they had were legit, maybe not. If you were looking for a bargain, you could roll the dice for $20 and find out at the gate.

It was a quaint part of the game day experience that will probably soon go the way of fax machines and typewriters. I haven’t been to a college game this season, but I have to imagine that like everything else the ticket scalping game has been forever changed by COVID-19.

Instead of paper tickets, nearly every college and pro team — and even many high schools — transitioned to digital ticketing systems in 2020. It was already a process in motion, but the pandemic sped it up. Ticket takers have become ticket scanners, and the scalpers are going to have to up their game to keep up.

In the future, instead of their trademark call of “TICKETS!” will they be standing on the corner shouting, “DOWNLOADS! I got downloads! Who needs ‘em?”

Rather than a fistful of easily transportable paper tickets, will they unfold a trench coat full of burner phones?

The digital ticketing phenomenon has even filtered down to the high school ranks. The Vicksburg Warren School District and others in Mississippi use the gofan.co web site. Tickets for the Vicksburg vs. Warren Central varsity basketball game earlier this month sold out in less than an hour. How long will it be before some enterprising soul creates a version of Stubhub.com to sell high school tickets on the secondary market?

Like everything else, I’m sure scalpers will adjust. Probably in less fanciful ways than we’d like to think. It’ll be just another relic of the past relegated to the dustbin of history, like the wishbone offense and free parking.

Ernest Bowker is the sports editor at The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at ernest.bowker@vicksburgpost.com

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured sports reporters in the paper's 137-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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