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TELANDER: Bears season-ticket holders can’t break the habit

Bears fan anticipate Bears-Green Bay game for NFC championship next Sunday during Bears 35-24 victory over Seattle Seahawks. | Tom

Bears fan anticipate the Bears-Green Bay game for the NFC championship next Sunday during the Bears 35-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: February 7, 2013 2:39PM

This is where P.T. Barnum and Carl Sandburg come together, two men unwittingly ­connected by American heritage and slogans.

You’ll recall it was circus man Barnum who allegedly said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.’’ (No matter that he probably didn’t say this. It’s something he might have said, it’s generally ­attributed to him, and, for our purposes, it works.)

And it was Sandburg, from the great city of Galesburg, Ill., who said in a poem that fog “comes on little cat feet.’’

Let’s make fog “Bears ticket prices,’’ mix these two great statements together and create a Chicago axiom: “Suckers will buy Bears tickets year after year, even though prices go up constantly, because the increases are sneaky, quiet, almost opaque, yet will, at some point, leave you soaked.’’

Fair enough?

Because on Wednesday the Bears announced that ticket prices for the 2013 season will go up $3 to $10 for 90 percent of the bowl seating at Soldier Field. It’s the 10th increase in 11 years.

The overall average increase for all season tickets is 4.2 percent. For walk-ups, good luck. Get scalped.

Not that much, you say, of the increase. Irritating, but … OK. What’s three bucks, 10 bucks? Couldn’t even buy a beer at Super Bowl XLVII for that. Hell, the penny’s going the way of the icebox.

Season-ticket holders will hold this internal dialogue: “What a pain in the a--, these Bears are! They’ve made the playoffs once in five years. But I can’t give up my seats now. Maybe they’ll win this year!’’

And so it goes.

Year after freaking year. With more Barnum folks waiting in the wings to snap up any of those tickets dropped by season holders who have been drained one drop beyond comatose.

Some fans have mortgages, you know. Some have credit card bills. Why, some even have children to house and feed!

But onward Bears patrons lurch, starry-eyed and hopeful, toward Soldier Field — immune to rain, snow, temperature, wind, drunks — in their Sayers and Payton and Cutler jerseys, paying ungodly sums for parking, food, beer, trinkets and programs every other Sunday in the fall, in the hopes their team will win and they’ll enjoy the outdoor experience and, in their lifetimes, another Super Bowl will be won.

It is wise to remember — as the Bears certainly do while conspiring to find that delicate bit of parasitic increase that will weaken the host but not kill it flat — that you must use stealth and charm with your demands. Obviously, the parable of the golden goose applies here, though let’s make the goose Joey from Berwyn, and the golden eggs money borrowed from his IRA or swiped from his wife’s girls-night-out fund.

The point is, you don’t annihilate the giving ­customer, leaving a pale, grinning carcass of no value to anyone. You apply leaches, carefully and softly, and you let them do their work.

Last year, the Bears had to pay Phil Emery to be their general manager and Jerry Angelo not to be, so they raised ticket prices to help out. Fans paid.

In years past, the Bears have said they needed extra money for things like free agents and because they have the smallest stadium in the league and so on.

In 2010, they raised prices so they could pursue Julius Peppers and pay amusement taxes. Nobody mentioned that consumers also had to pay increased taxes on things like homes, cars, everything everywhere.

In 2007, the Bears jacked up prices by $5 to $20. Had to pay Lovie Smith, you know. You had to pay him, that is.

At the end of the 1999 season, the Bears softly ­announced a $4 increase on 49,000 seats. They spun this out on the Friday night before the Super Bowl, as devious a tactic as you could want.

That was the Bears’ first ticket raise since 1996, but it got the ball rolling.

The ball rolls yet. Quietly, right over your little cat rear.

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