- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Matt Jones started booking his trip to Tampa at the exact moment that Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor picked up a fumble and raced 39 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown in Sunday’s playoff-clinching victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Mr. Jones and three fellow Redskins fans will be sitting in the fourth row of Raymond James Stadium on Saturday after shelling out more than $300 each for tickets, plus airfare and hotel.

“We paid quite a premium,” said Mr. Jones, an electrical engineer from Pasadena, Md. “My opinion is that you pay a premium, but that it’s an experience you never forget.”

Mr. Jones is a member of what appears to be a horde of fans who will be traveling to Florida to see the Redskins play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their first postseason game since after the 1999 season. Many, like Mr. Jones, paid through the nose for a sniff of Redskins playoff glory.

As of yesterday, the least expensive available face-value seat was $345. At StubHub.com, a San Francisco-based ticket reselling Web site, the average price was $238 for tickets retailing for $67, with some going for more than $1,000. More than 44 percent of the tickets sold on StubHub went to buyers in the District, Maryland, Virginia and Delaware.

Other fans, however, managed to land tickets at face value through a loophole in a sale set up for Buccaneers season-ticket holders. The team held a special sale for its season-ticket holders Monday, providing them with a password to buy the tickets through Ticketmaster.com. The password then was posted for all to see on an Internet message board of Buccaneers fans.

“When I read about the sale, I figured [the password] had to be on the Internet somewhere,” said Paul Sotoudeh of Falls Church, who scored two face-value tickets for $94 each. “And sure enough it was.”

Ken Russell, a Baltimore resident and Redskins fan, bought two upper-deck tickets for him and his wife, also at the regular price of $94 each.

Mr. Russell will be flying to Tampa on Southwest Airlines and staying at a Days Inn near the stadium. The total cost, he says, will be less than what he paid for his trip to Philadelphia to see the Redskins play the Eagles on Sunday.

Unlike some previous sales held by other teams, the Buccaneers did not block any sales to ZIP codes of the opponents’ fans. A spokeswoman for Ticketmaster said she was unaware of any issues relating to the pre-sale. She said the company had no way of determining who was buying the tickets and had no plans to cancel any orders.

Meanwhile, sales of Redskins apparel continued in a frenzy that began with the team’s win over Dallas on Dec.18, according to area sports retailers.

“It’s insane. There’s nothing [in the back room] right now,” said Mandy Mitchell, store manager at the Washington Redskins Official Store in Tysons Corner. “You get your die-hard fans in here, and then you have your fans where they only like the Skins when they’re winning.”

Jerseys have been the top sellers.

“Everybody loves [wide receiver] Santana Moss and [halfback] Chris Cooley,” she said. “I wish I had a press so I could make jerseys in the back.”

The store has sold 12 “playoff bound” shirts since they arrived Monday night.

Modell’s Sporting Goods in Fairfax also reported brisk sales.

“It’s been phenomenal all year long, especially with the playoff push, it’s definitely increased,” said Mark Siegel, the store’s general manager. “Throughout the holiday season, it was split between half gifts and half just regular fans. Right now, everybody’s been coming in.”

Pamela Filer and her son, Tom, 12, bought a miniature Redskins helmet, a key chain and a badge from the official store at Tysons.

“We’re from Australia, but he’s crazy about the Redskins,” said Mrs. Filer, whose son ordinarily watches the team’s games at his home in Brisbane via pay-per-view television.

Jamie Fields of Baltimore purchased a burgundy cap like the one coach Joe Gibbs wears on the sidelines.

“Whether we lose or win, it’s still my team,” said Mr. Fields, who was sporting a black knit Redskins hat, a Redskins watch and a pair of team wristbands. “If they were 0-17, I’d still be buying it.”

It appears almost no one is immune from the Redskins playoff bug.

“I ordinarily don’t do this,” said Jan Power, a lawyer from Davidsonville who will fly down to Tampa on Friday night. “I don’t like to travel, but for this they’d have to sit an elephant on my chest to keep me from going.”

Daytona, Fla., resident and Redskins fan Justin Crist will be organizing a tailgate gathering in Tampa for fans traveling from the D.C. area. What began as a humble gathering has grown to a party for more than 50 people.

“It’s started as three or four groups of us getting together for the first time,” Mr. Crist said. “Now it’s … wow!”

A victory by the Redskins would set up a showdown against the Seattle Seahawks the next week. So is a trip out West already in the works?

“It’s not out of the realm,” Mr. Sotoudeh said. “This is why you work, to do the things you want to do.”

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