When it became clear that the San Francisco 49ers would host their first NFC Championship Game since 1998, the Rev. Tyler Scott was gripped by a difficult ethical dilemma. Should he spend Sunday in a suit speaking of spirituality to his congregation at the Neighborhood Church in Castro Valley? Or should he, decked out in blood red and gold, shriek out his deep love of the 49ers from the upper deck of the Stick?
The answer came like a thunderbolt of revelation. He quickly phoned a guest speaker who could substitute for him this weekend saying: "You may not understand this. ..."
"I love this church, it's rare that I miss a Sunday," said Scott, 37, a religiously devoted Niners fan who didn't miss a home game from childhood until college. But with his team playing at home this deep into the postseason, he happily confessed, "I have to go to this game."
Across the Bay Area, there are thousands of fans who have to go to this game. Most will have to settle for a seat on the couch or a bar stool.
There may be 66,000 seats at Candlestick, but for those who aren't season ticket holders they might seem as rare as Alex Smith turnovers. Sixty thousand of those seats may evaporate within minutes after 10 a.m. Wednesday when season ticket holders get first dibs. Any remaining will go on sale in the afternoon.
Meanwhile on the secondary ticket market, prices are skyrocketing to meet a frenzied demand. The average ticket price on that market -- $610.23 -- is about the same as an average ticket to one of the hottest concert tickets around: Drake's New Year's Eve concert at the Hard Rock Cafe in Vegas.
In the Bay Area, giddy football fanatics are ready to plop down rent money to bag a ticket. One discreet hunter confessed that he scoured his mother's house searching for savings bonds, appreciating since childhood. Many are sending Hail Mary tweets to the 49ers hoping to land four free seats in a team giveaway. One man offered to walk naked through Chinatown. Another said he would tattoo the team logo on his stomach.
"I don't know anyone in the organization who hasn't been hit up for tickets," said Steve Weakland, the 49ers' director of corporate communications. "My stock line is: Too late, all of mine are already gone."
Weakland went on to warn desperate fans not to become suckers by paying for counterfeit tickets that always pop up at times like this. He recommended only buying from reputable brokers and paying with a credit card.
Ticket dramas aside, both championship games this weekend are packed with great storylines. Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers' inspirational coach, has divined his team to unforeseen greatness. Across the country, San Mateo's Tom Brady and the New England Patriots will play the John Harbaugh-coached Baltimore Ravens. The chance of a Super Bowl helmed by two brothers is historically a delicious notion.
Ticket hunting to both games is fierce, but the 49ers' game dwarfs the AFC championship.
Chris Matcovich of TiqIq reports the costliest seat for the Patriots-Ravens game is about $2,895, in Section 132, Row 5. The price for something in the Candlestick's Field Box Section 15, Row 1 is reportedly going for $10,000.
At the popular ticket website StubHub, it reported the range of tickets purchased for the 49ers game has been $230 (months ago) to $2,800 (Field Box 17.)
The nosebleed costs for seats are driving some away.
Paulette Moore said she'll watch the game at home instead of her alternate plan: breaking into her child's college fund. Mike Lamar figures he could buy a good high-definition TV, watch both games and the Super Bowl -- and still come out ahead financially.
This may be the rationalization of the powerless.
Doug James, an insurance broker from Santa Clara who grew up wearing a John Brodie jersey, is making the ultimate fan's bet. He is selling this week's tickets to finance a trip to a 49ers Super Bowl in Indianapolis.
Wayne Aanenson, of Sacramento, is selling his tickets to wait for the arrival of his second grandchild. Then he confessed, "Actually, the wife told me, 'What are you thinking! You have to be with your daughter!' "
Dan Buitrago, 37, a Concord teacher, and his family are selling their tickets despite the team's turnaround and last week's YES! NO! YES! NO! YESSSS! upset of the Saints. A good sale will pay for almost half of next year's season tickets. And watching at Dad's house is almost as fun.
"You don't worry about the bathroom line or the traffic," Buitrago said. "We have such a raucous, intense family, it's almost like being at the game. You don't want to step in our living room when the score is close."
Blasphemy! cried others.
Krystal Church, 23, of San Jose, keeps her season tickets in a safe.
"You would have to kill me to sell those," Church said.
Scott, the pastor, didn't have to commit criminal sin for his tickets, not good on the résumé of a holy man. He is paying about $1,200.
"There is nothing like being there," Scott said, describing a silence last week during which Saints players could be heard shouting with glee. That was ultimately followed by a jet wash blast of noise from the Niners faithful as victory reigned. "It's electric. It's alive. You can feel it."
Contact Sean Webby at 408-920-5003.