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This One Flew Under The Radar...

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... almost.

Sun-Times columnist Greg Couch (who is terrific, incidentally, a topic on which Chuck and I have agreed upon today -- that's the fourth time Chuck and I have been in agreement today alone, a sure sign that the end is nigh) wrote a column in yesterday's paper absolutely ripping the Cubs for their brazen operation of a ticket-scalping operation, all the while telling all of you that there aren't any tickets available:

It isn't legal in this state to scalp tickets to an event you are putting on, meaning the Cubs can't get a license to broker Cubs tickets, but the company that owns the Cubs can.

We knew what was going on, but the Cubs at least bothered to deny it. But now that they have won the decision, they're laughing in our face. On Addison, just off Sheffield, on the grounds at Wrigley Field in front of a legit ticket window, is a new stand-alone sign that reads: "Still Need Cubs Tickets? Cubs Tickets Available at Wrigley Field Premium Tickets."

The ticket window is the bait. This sign, next to an ATM machine, is the switch.

Basically, what's happened, if you missed this, is that the Cubs, ostensibly to compete with the storefront ticket brokers who were legalized by the Illinois Legislature, started their own such operation.

They went through all kinds of legal mumbo-jumbo to separate, in a legal sense, the ownership of the ticket brokerage from the ownership of the team. But it's clear to everyone involved that the Cubs are basically holding tickets back from YOU, reselling them at face value to Wrigley Field Premium Ticket Services, and then scalping them.

What makes this ominous and worse is the fact that, in a little-publicized move, an outfit called MLB Advanced Media has purchased tickets.com, which currently serves eleven major league teams (Athletics, Brewers, Cardinals, Cubs, Giants, Pirates, Rangers, Red Sox, Reds, Royals and Twins), but wants eventually to take over all MLB ticket sales operations.

And who owns MLB Advanced Media? Well, one guess. Oh yes, they've jumped through the same sort of legal hoops to "separate" themselves from MLB, but this is the first step toward getting a stranglehold on all ticket sales, and probably boosting the prices beyond where anyone who doesn't live in a gated community can afford them.

The Cubs are barely bothering to pretend -- there's a link on the front page of their website, for heaven's sake, proudly proclaiming:

The Cubs and Wrigley Field Premium Ticket Services are both owned by Tribune Company.

I have it on authority from someone who knows about these things, that the original ruling "legalizing" WFPTS, by a Cook County Circuit judge whose name escapes me, was made by someone who didn't really understand the case or what was at stake. (This person used other words in telling me about this, but I think I had better keep them to myself.) I have every reason to believe that this ruling, which is headed through the federal appeals courts, will be overturned by the appellate judges.

It had better be. This scalping operation even sold bleacher tickets for Opening Day and other dates, even though the bleachers were supposedly "sold out" for the entire season, a few days after tickets went on sale.

Couch has it exactly right:

When the appeals judges try to decide if the Cubs are separate from Premium, let's hope they realize that the courts aren't supposed to be there to help rich corporations with expensive lawyers stick it to the little guy. Let's hope they picture the real scene on Addison, where a row of ticket windows represents Average Joe, and the sign nearby by the ATM says, "Still Need Cubs Tickets?"

Tickets are expensive enough as it is. The Cubs should give everyone a better shot at getting them, at a fair price.