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This year was rough for the Jazzman

The phone rang, and Mike Douros picked it up on the ninth ring.

"Nope," he said. "Austin Powers? Uh-uh. No idea."He hung up.

"In San Antonio," he said, "courtside tickets are going for five grand. I got people calling for the 'Austin Powers' preview, want to know if it's a good movie!"

He grimaced, laughed and threw up his hands. "You gotta be kidding me!"

Two weeks ago yesterday, life went relatively sour on the "Jazzman," who rates as one of the most over-the-top fans anywhere. Douros isn't just the bald guy with "Jazz" written on his skull and the license plate around his neck that says "Jazzman." He's also the founder of Ticket Broker -- a business that is exactly as advertised. Want to see Big Bad Shaq and the Lakers play the Jazz? How about "Les Miserables" or "Phantom of the Opera"? If you thought it would take selling your soul to see last year's NBA Finals, up close and personal, that's not entirely true. All you needed was $7,000 and Douros' number, and there you were, front and maybe even center.

But that was then and this is the aftermath. Douros made enough money to buy a new house in the upscale part of Salt Lake County last year; this year he took it in his regulation-length, NBA-sanctioned Jazz shorts. First, the lockout squelched ticket sales, November through January. A loss of 40 percent of the season means a loss of 40 percent of his normal income. But that was small stuff compared with what he lost thanks to the Jazz's demise in the playoffs this year. The early exit cost him 80 percent of his hoped-for playoff take.

The Jazz nailed him in the most vulnerable spots -- the heart and the wallet.

So it was that last Saturday, a full 10 days after the Jazz were out of the playoffs, Douros was up pacing the floor at 3 a.m. "Depression," he said, "is too strong a word, but close. I haven't watched any basketball since."

Post-playoff grief is no surprise, coming from a guy who owns every imaginable Jazz memorabilia item -- trading card sets, plaques, autographed papers, basketballs, caps, jerseys. His downtown office looks like a 12-year-old's dream. Like Hornacek, Stockton and Malone, Douros is one of the Big 3 of Jazz fandom, along with Dr. Richard (The Crazy Doc) Anderson under the one basket and Big John (Suds) Sudbury at midcourt. If they aren't around, there isn't a game. Douros has missed just three home games in 14 years -- all during a week in which he was on a cruise. Unable to forget the Jazz, he called ship-to-shore to his office, which connects to the Jazz broadcasts while the caller is on hold. His phone bill for a week: $1,100.

"My wife," he said, "was not happy."

There are, predictably, other hazards to being the Jazzman besides financial ones. Last year during the playoffs in L.A., he had two cops in front of him and a security guard behind. "Is that $500 seat worth your life?" one cop said. Douros agreed to move to a safer seat, farther from the court. As he walked up the aisle he was punched repeatedly by irate fans.

Though Douros has made a more-than-comfortable living as a ticket broker, he considers himself just a working-class fan who gets to sit in the expensive seats. He bought tickets for $1.50 see the Utah Stars in the days of Booner, Beatty and Wondrous Willie Wise.

The business end came along by accident. He and his brother owned a small used car lot. When someone bought a car, it included two tickets to a Jazz game. One night in 1988, the Jazz were playing the Celtics at the Salt Palace and Douros had two unused tickets. He was headed out of the arena, intending to call a friend, when a fan offered to buy the $20 tickets for $100.

A business was born.

It didn't take much research for Douros to figure he could make a living at his new job. He ran 20 classified ads in the papers for his cars, for which he received about 40 calls a day. He ran one ad on Jazz tickets and received 150 calls. "That's all the market research I needed right there," he said.

Since then, it's been a great ride. If you're in the ticket business, it's hard to do better than 16 straight years in the playoffs. The up side for the Jazzman this year is that he can spend the rest of the summer with his eight kids. The down side is he can't bear to watch the other teams play.

"It'll take me until I get a long trip to get over this, and I'm not going until June 25," he said. "I'm in misery."

In more ways than one.