Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The moral dilemma with Bieksa's Buddies

In lieu of the past month's lockout, Kevin Bieksa has rapidly assumed the position of Vancouver's off-season darling.  He skates alongside the city's young and aspiring hockey players.  He gives us near-NHL-calibre hockey in the name of charity.  He even admonishes the local scalper community for driving up the ticket prices.  It's as if Captain Planet died and was born again as an NHL defenceman.

That said, I hope you'll forgive my reservations about that third act of valour.  For those out of the loop or who need refreshing, Bieksa was featured on the front page of Wednesday's Province for lashing out at scalpers reselling his game's tickets for as much as five times the original value – a healthy $100 per seat!  My first reaction when reading the article was, alongside all similarly honest and hard-working folk (of course), "Good on ya, Juice!"  About time someone publicly called out the black-hearted among us, no?

But somehow I found myself magnetically drawn back to that inflated figure: $100 per seat.  I have four tickets.  (Open my calculator app...)  Well that takes care of half the month's rent for a lot of people.

Here we see Bieksa considering what he
might actually do to someone he caught
scalping his tickets...
Do I dare incur Bieksa's wrath?  Don't get me wrong.  I don't find it a morally thrilling endeavor to scalp, but is it really the evil he makes it out to be?  First things first, is Bieksa or anyone else particularly surprised that this is happening?  Surely he knows how much actual Canucks tickets can go for on Craigslist.  And I'm pretty sure anyone within a square mile can hear the scalpers outside Rogers Arena on a game night.  Obviously Bieksa takes special offense here as this is his event, but if it's on moral grounds that he disagrees with scalping, where has his outrage been all these years?

Most importantly, however, what exactly is the moral dilemma presented by scalping?  I ask the question out of genuine curiosity, because the situation at hand puts me between an easy paycheck and a code of conduct that Bieksa likely shares with many others.  His objections stem mostly from the fact that the tickets are for charity.  I understand the stigma associated with making a profit in that context and I do question the morality of it myself, but objectively speaking, there are zero proceeds being lost here due to scalping.  The maximum amount of money has already been made for the organizations in question.  For that reason, I struggle to see how the charities are relevant in this situation.  What we have, I believe, is a discussion in the morality of business.

Never in my life as a liberal arts student did I think I would be an advocate for capitalism, but let's consider other comparable scenarios here.  In the business of real estate, you might buy a house and sell it for profit as the market turns in your favour.  In the business of living out of your parents' basement, you might do the same with a well-packaged action figure or hockey card.  No ethical dilemmas there, I would imagine.

Or say, for example, in another completely random scenario, that you're a professional hockey player and the commodity you possess is your athletic ability.  Take the value of your ability on any given year.  Due to a wealth of factors, including market demand, free agency, salary inflation and the  terms of the era's (yikes) collective bargaining agreement, can you possibly imagine a situation in which you might be paid more than what your same athletic ability was worth at an earlier time?  If you can't, then you clearly do not follow NHL hockey or any professional sport, for that matter.

Here's the thing: In this current lockout and all the frustration surrounding it, does anyone ever blame the players for accepting the money thrown at them all these years?  No.  And nor should they.  Surely, when the opportunity arises, you sell to the highest possible bidder.  At the very least, you sell according to the given market value.  For that reason, I fail to see why I should be morally prevented from re-selling my tickets.

I speak mostly as the devil's advocate, because you won't actually see my tickets on Craigslist.  I will be happily going to the game in place of a student's fortune.  And for the record, Bieksa deserves a tremendous amount of respect for what he's been doing in the community.  I simply think his comments regarding scalping could be understood differently with an alternate perspective.

So here's to watching one-half of an NHL scrimmage tomorrow.  And here's to those making an exorbitant profit on them, too.


*See the online discussion regarding this article on the Canucks.com forums here.

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