By BOB FOULKES

I’m not a passionate fan of NFL football, but Sunday afternoons in the fall seem to be defined by a lazy afternoon with the New York Times and the early and late games on TV. Sunday and Monday evenings are good too. And a game seems to be showing up on Thursday nights on a regular basis.

There is another NFL tradition that I like. Once a year, I take my gang to a Seahawks game in Seattle. We drive down on Saturday, shop a bit, have a nice dinner. On Sunday, we sleep late, eat and head for the game. We’re home in time to get ready for work the next day. It is a tradition I’d like to continue.

Going to a real game is a delight, it’s the whole deal. The fans, the noise, the excitement, the overpriced food, the cheers, the opening ceremonies, the half time show; oh and it’s good to see live football. The whole event is infinitely more exciting than flicking on a game from the comfort of my sofa.

These are the old faces of scalping. The business has gone corporate, raking in big bucks from the suckers — who include both fans and pro sports organizations.

I want only one set of four Seahawks tickets once a year. I’m not even concerned about who their opponent is. I have a few options for buying my tickets. The Seahawks have no mechanism for selling single-game tickets — they’ve farmed it all out to Ticketmaster. That means spending an hour of my life that I’ll never get back going through their system trying to find tickets. They’re usually sold out. I can check a bunch of small vendors and try to find some tickets being sold privately but I’m worried I’ll be scammed. I pay for the tickets long before I use them and they may not work at the turnstile. Stories of bogus tickets abound.

The last few times, I have gone to StubHub, the ubiquitous presence that has inserted itself between fans and the seats they covet. StubHub is a ticket scalper. Created in 2000 by some biz school guys, it acts as a middleman between people who have tickets and people who want tickets. It makes its money on commissions — 25 per cent of the price, 10 per cent from the seller and 15 per cent from the buyer. They also charge a hefty handling fee.

They are not just scalpers; they virtually guarantee that no one is going to get ripped off, promising to deliver if a glitch happens on game day. This is a big selling point and I’m willing to pay for risk insurance for my one big game of the year. The question is, how much?

Here’s the math. I have four tickets in a corner of the Seahawks stadium, high enough to give us a clear view of the field, but they are not premium seats. The face value of the tickets is $74 each. Total cost, just under $300 US. Not bad.

I paid StubHub $763 to get these tickets delivered to my door by Fedex. The cost of each ticket has jumped from $74 to $169 and Stub Hub has added $90 in commissions and delivery fees.

Scalping has never been so lucrative. In fact, it is not the shady street corner, “Psst, hey buddy want some tickets for tonight’s game?” stuff. It is mainstream, it is computerized, sanitized and results are guaranteed. It is also big business. After a small start and some growth financings, eBay bought StubHub for more than $300 million in 2007.

I’m the chump. I paid a markup of more than $450 for these tickets. I get what I want and I get some insurance that I’m buying tickets from a source that will guarantee their authenticity.

Is this the new normal?

I’m all for rewarding an entrepreneur, but do the guys who created this little bit of software and a business that offers a pretty good guarantee really deserve that much money for their work? I read more stories about the enormous profits reaped by Apple, Microsoft and a gazillion geeks who have invented some software application. I have been sold on the idea that all these bits of software made the market more transparent and lowered cost; I thought that more competition was supposed to lower the price of such services.

There is another chump in this transaction. I’m paying more than double for Seahawks tickets and the Seahawks don’t see much of that. Why would the Seahawks organization sit back and watch as StubHub sells its $74 ticket to me for $169? THe Seahawks are losing almost $100 per ticket per game for each ticket that StubHub brokers. I cannot believe the Seahawks will leave this much value on the table to be picked up by folks who are, in the end, sophisticated scalpers. They  are the bigger chumps.

They say a sucker is born every minute. StubHub has lined up thousands, including the NFL.