Monday, August 24, 2009

Pittsburgh columnist embraces worthy cause -- me!

The “Free Chris Rodell!” movement got off to a gangbuster start Sunday after columnist Eric Heyl of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review picked up his editorial cudgel and used it to hammer my recent arrest for trying to sell $300 worth of Steeler tickets for just $200.

It was fun for me to be on the other side of a story I’ve told so many times, that of a cherubic innocent being unjustly persecuted by stupid bureaucracy beholden to a law that should never have been enacted.

With the exception of the cherubic bit, the entirety of the previous sentence is true.

I tried to be an accommodating subject. When Eric asked if I’d been placed in hand cuffs, I was tempted to and say, “Not only that, but he tased me in place no man should ever be tased.”

When he asked if the officer mistreated me in anyway, I nearly blurted out, “Only if you believe waterboarding constitutes mistreatment.”

But those would have been lies.

Skeptics, well, my wife, keep wondering if I’m leaving something out of the story, like maybe the propositioning of an undercover hooker.

But, no, I was arrested for trying to sell an undercover officer four of my own tickets, valued at $75 each, for less than $200 for the whole bunch. That’s exactly what the citation says.

I’m awaiting a hearing date and a call from the gang over at “60 Minutes.” Justice will prevail!

Funny, in one week I was quoted as an expert in the New York Times and then just five days later revealed to be a half-assed outlaw in the paper read by all my friends.

You’d think there’d be some money in a life this interesting.

You’d be mistaken.

Eric had some fun with it and I’m happy with how it turned out. Here’s what he wrote:

Preseason games sure ticket to big fine
By Eric Heyl
Sunday, August 23, 2009

It shouldn't be that difficult to get rid of Steelers tickets, even if they are for a preseason game.

More importantly, no one should ever — ever — get into legal trouble over tickets for any NFL preseason game. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

Chris Rodell and his cousin long have owned four Steelers season tickets. They usually charitably give the preseason tickets to people who otherwise never would get to see the Black-and-Gold players in person.

"Doesn't seem right to charge for them," Rodell said. "Not when most of the guys you're going to see playing will soon be strip club bouncers down in Dixie."

Rodell, 46, of Latrobe is a freelance writer. In this economy, that means he usually is one benevolent editor's assignment away from playing Stratego with other residents of the homeless encampment under the overpass.

So this year, Rodell was determined to get some money for the tickets, which have a face value of $75 apiece. But he had trouble finding a buyer for the Steelers' exhibition opener against the Arizona Cardinals.

None of his friends were interested.

"Everyone has a nice big-screen TV at home now and would rather drink (their own) beers than the $7 ones the crooks at Heinz Field charge for warm stadium brew," Rodell said.

He attempted to sell them via Ticketmaster's online ticket exchange site, but found it apparently only brokers regular-season tickets. He tried to peddle them on Craigslist, but got nary a nibble.

So Rodell and a buddy ventured to the North Shore the night of the game with a plan. Rodell would sell the tickets for whatever he could get, and then use some of the proceeds for liquid refreshments while watching the action at a nearby sports bar.

After negotiations with several prospective purchasers went nowhere, Rodell was approached by a guy in a Hines Ward jersey.

He asked how much Rodell wanted for the $300 worth of tickets.

Not wanting to price gouge, Rodell asked what he thought was a reasonable price of $200.

"That's when he pulled out a Pittsburgh Police badge and told me I was under arrest," Rodell said. "I was arrested by Hines Ward."

That Rodell was attempting to sell his own tickets for less than their original cost was irrelevant.

He didn't have a city license authorizing him to resell the tickets. He wasn't in the legal ticket reselling zone next to the portable toilets near North Shore Drive and Tony Dorsett Way.

Rodell has an upcoming hearing before a district judge. Ironically, he faces a fine equal to the face value of the tickets he was trying to sell — $300.

He didn't hesitate when asked if getting arrested while attempting to consummate a money-losing business transaction has taught him anything.

"If you have preseason tickets and you don't plan on using them," he said, "set them on fire."


Bruce Coltin said...

Thank God violent crime has disappeared from the streets of Pittsburgh and the police are able to address this sort of nasty, no collar crime.

Chris Rodell said...

Yeah, can you believe it? A sweetheart like me? Thanks for writing, Bruce. It is an odd one. I hope the judge will toss it. I had to eat the tickets already. Shouldn't that be fine enough?

You wouldn't happen to be a Pittsburgh judge, would you?

Michelle H. said...

Infidels! Hassling a man who only wanted liquid refreshment. I hope you get a judge in a Hines Ward jersey who not only dismisses the case, but has the undercover cop out on Heinz field as a line backer in the next game.

Chris Rodell said...

Thank you, Michelle, for your vicarious venom. I'm trying to be above the fray, but it's a balm knowing my friends aren't afraid to muck it up.

Lost in the hubbub is . . . Go Steelers!