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Rays do away with paper tickets and I’m (sniff, sniff) not crying at all

John Romano | A lot of teams are using mobile technology in place of tickets, but it’s hard to get sentimental about an app.
Hey kids, these are called ticket stubs. There was a time when you actually had to carry these around with you to get into ballgames and concerts. They're not as efficient as mobile apps, but they do have a certain sentimental value. [CHRIS URSO | Times]

ST. PETERSBURG — The calendar on my desk insists the year is 2020, and yet my heart remains tied to 1978.

For instance, I’ve got ticket stubs from Rowdies games that summer against obscure opponents in a stadium that no longer exists. There are other mementos from a spring training game at Al Lang Field, and a Buccaneers game against the Bills.

There’s also a ticket stub from a Black Sabbath concert at the Bayfront Center in November of ’78 with some up-and-coming L.A. band named Van Halen as the opening act.

These tickets are both worthless and irreplaceable. They’re stuffed in giant sandwich bags in my nightstand and I could go years without ever thinking about them. And yet at any given moment, I can thumb through dozens of these tickets and it will unleash a torrent of memories of my father, brothers, friends and my puke-green Chevy Nova.

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I got to thinking about these ducats when the Tampa Bay Rays announced this week they were doing away with paper tickets and dealing exclusively with mobile apps. Normally, this is where I would lecture the team about its we-know-best attitude while they are simultaneously bemoaning a lack of customers, but we all know that won’t accomplish anything.

Instead, I’ll simply lament another piece of the past lost to technology.

I realize there is a get-off-my-lawn element to this argument, but it’s not like I’m completely stuck in a time warp of MTV and mullets. It’s taken a while but I’ve figured out my Venmo app, I know how to Uber, and Spotify has become the love of my life.

But there is a sentimental quality to ticket stubs that I just can’t shake.

I like looking at the prices, the dates, the rows and sections. I like pulling out the stub from an Athletics-Rangers game in Oakland on June 12, 1990, and, 30 years later, still cursing that I missed a Nolan Ryan no-hitter by one night. I like knowing that Schlitz sponsored The Who tour in 1982 and Budweiser brought us the Simon and Garfunkel reunion in 1983. I still marvel that we used to buy Rowdies tickets at Maas Brothers department store and that we had to drive to (I think) a Bealls store in south Tampa to buy tickets to Frank Zappa at the jai alai fronton.

I look at a fistful of tickets from the woebegone Bucs of the ’80s and know that I never bought a single one at the box office and never paid more than $10 to a scalper.

(This led to perhaps the greatest ad-lib of my life. I was offering a scalper $5 apiece for two tickets to a crappy Bucs game minutes before kickoff. He said, “Do you know these are on the 40-yard line?’’ I said, “Do you know they’re playing the national anthem?’’)

It may not mean much to my son, but I’ve kept all the ticket stubs from the stadiums we’ve gone to together. I was 20 before I stepped foot in my first big league ballpark in Atlanta in 1983. He’s 16 and has already been to 13 Major League stadiums, including Word Series games in 2008, ’13 and ’18. And, by the way, we had mobile tickets to the 2018 Series in Boston and had to request ticket stubs from the Red Sox after the Series was over.

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I suppose there are sound business strategies for using mobile apps. And there are probably a lot of customers who prefer using their phones instead of worrying whether they remembered to bring their paper tickets.

But I also know a lot of people who don’t have smartphones. And I tend to think that technology should give us more options, instead of fewer.

I guess I have passed some unseen barrier into the old-fart stage of life, but I’ve had plenty of good times along the way.

And I have the ticket stubs to prove it.

John Romano can be reached at Follow @romano_tbtimes.