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So, like most loyal Union-Tribune readers, I couldn’t help but notice the paper’s Chargers Playoff Game sweepstakes thing.

You can’t miss the ad. In Tuesday’s paper, it was on the back page of the sports section. If you still can’t see it, look for the huge dork with the scarf (?) wearing a Doug Flutie (?) No. 7 jersey (?). Let me be less subtle: It doesn’t look like any Chargers jersey I’ve ever seen.

Back to the contest. I’ll let the U-T explain the deal:

Buy the Union-Tribune from a store or rack box on Sunday, January 14 and you could win free tickets to Sunday’s Chargers divisional playoff game. Ten newspapers have pairs of tickets hidden inside. Buy more papers for more chances to win. Play nice. And good luck.

OK, this is a disaster in the making for so many reasons.

It’s actually a much more complex contest than the Willy Wonka-esque golden ticket contest described above.

The first concern was conveyed to me by now three longtime readers of the U-T. It’s a simple question: What about people who already, essentially, “buy” the paper every day when it lands on their driveway.

The U-T:

Purchase a Sunday, January 14, regular edition of The San Diego Union-Tribune from a retail or rack location. Applies only to plastic-wrapped copies of the Union-Tribune … Does NOT apply to home-delivered editions.

Apparently the U-T figured out it had slighted its subscribers so it set up a drawing — all subscribers are automatically entered to win two tickets. The drawing will occur Thursday.

The new rule appeared in Tuesday’s paper.

Now, is that a “pair” of tickets some one person gets to win? Or is it two tickets that two people are going to win? After all, it’s no fun to go to a game alone and that’s presumably the reason the paper has offered pairs of tickets to the lucky people who find them in the papers they buy at 7-11 and such.

Here’s how the small type describing this separate drawing reads:

…Winners will be notified by telephone and e-mail at 12 p.m. Friday January 12 …

That’s “winners” plural. If there are two tickets available in the drawing and multiple “winners,” it appears you’ll be lucky to win one ticket — not a pair.

The U-T estimates that the odds of winning for people who go out and purchase the newspapers Sunday morning are one in 13,300 — pretty good.

The odds of winning this extra drawing for tickets, however, for the chumps who have been buying (and reading) the paper every day for years, are one in 305,000.

Like any sweepstakes, the paper can’t force people to make a purchase to participate.

So, here’s the paper’s answer to that:

A voucher for a free newspaper can be picked up at the Union-Tribune on Sunday, January 14 between 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. Vouchers are redeemable at participating 7-11 locations while supplies last.

That sounds like a nightmare: line up at 6 a.m. at the U-T in Mission Valley.

Drive around frantically looking for a 7-11 (here’s a map of the three closest). Spend your voucher on one lucky paper without the clerk wondering what the heck it is. Waiting for the clerk to call his manager to ask if it’s valid. Win! Then head straight to Qualcomm because, you better know, it can take about an hour just to get into that parking lot on game days.

Watch the game and hopefully don’t sit next to the dork with the scarf in the U-T ad.

Or go to the bar with your buddies and watch the game. I’m thinking the latter.

SCOTT LEWIS

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