Thursday, May 9, 2013

How Non-Rich are These Other Sports Experiences?

Last night, I wrote about how the other half lives at the Kentucky Derby. Here, we're going to take a close look at some of the other experiences of the non-rich sports fan.

Going back at least to the Colosseum in ancient Rome, there has been class segregation at sporting events. According to, "The special, un-numbered gates, were used by the magistrates, emperor, wealthy patricians, senators, visiting dignitaries and the Vestal Virgins. The emperor could also access the Colosseum via a richly decorated tunnel which started at the Imperial Palace."
Pret-ty baller.

Here are some of the main differences between the haves and have-nots in today's sporting world:

Luxury Boxes vs. Grandstand Seating
The luxury box is the most obvious separation of rich and non-rich in today's corporate sports world. Huge companies pay thousands upon thousands of dollars so that their clients don't have to mingle with peasants.

Box Seats vs. Bleachers
The Yankee Stadium Bleacher Creatures have a spirited "Box seats suck!" chant at the end of each first-inning Roll Call. But box seats don't really suck; only the prices do. That's the reason Yankees games look so empty on televised games at the new Stadium, despite the fact that the cheap seats are usually jam-packed.

Paying Face Value vs. Scalping Tickets
This one is sentimental for me, as I grew up the son of a scalper extraordinaire. A quick story: During the 1996 World Series between the Yankees and the Braves, my dad took my brother (8 years old) and me (10) to Game 2 at the Stadium. This was right at the beginning of the Yankees' recent dynasty, so everyone wanted to go to a game. The one problem: We didn't have tickets and my dad brought only 75 dollars to buy three. I guess the plan was to find a bunch of Wall Street guys that were so rich they didn't mind giving away tickets for basically free. He quickly guilted one drunk group of three into giving up their fourth ticket for just 20 bucks. Then, shortly after the first pitch, we scored another, this one for 40 dollars. Two tickets, 15 dollars left. It was time for Dad to make a decision, and he went with his well-developed pauper instincts. We walked around until we found the most elderly usher. Then my Dad handed me a ticket, scooped my brother into his arms, and wrapped him in a blanket. The usher looked at us with a "You gotta be kidding me" look, my dad said, "He's gonna sit on my lap," and we scurried into the House that Ruth Built. Good thing neither my dad nor the usher gave a single f--- that night.

Classy Events vs. Skelly Events
While horse racing's Triple Crown events segregate crowds into rich and non-rich, tennis's major tournaments are broken into those two categories. Wimbledon is the crown jewel of the sport. It features perfectly manicured grass courts, players in all-white outfits, strawberry and cream deserts for spectators, and Royal patronage. And the Australian Open has...literally none of those things. In a thoroughly entertaining Sports Illustrated piece a couple months ago (sorry I couldn't find the story online), L.Jon Wertheim wrote:

If you were to administer a field sobriety test to the crowds at the Australian Open, the collective result might be ugly. Struck by how thoroughly the Australian Open splinters the stereotype of the pristine tennis tournament, someone once remarked, "[It] is a beer event not a champagne event." But, really, it's open bar. There's wine, mixed drinks, champagne, and beer. Lots of beer. So much, in fact, that if you can't be bothered to wait in line at the concession stand, a man with a keg strapped to his back will happily refill your plastic cup.
Those who aren't sloshed? They might as well be. That includes the pack of 14 men dressed as Waldo from Where's Waldo?, the woman on stilts, a grown man blowing soap bubbles...

Pretty much sounds like the non-rich sports fan's dream. (You know, if there had been an actual sport involved in Wertheim's description.)

Tomas Berdych's Aussie Open cheering section wouldn't fit in at Wimbledon.

With the possible exception of sitting in a luxury box once a year, I'll take the non-rich sports fan's experience every time. My tastes are unrefined enough that scalping bleacher tickets to a skelly sporting event sounds like a damn fine time to me.

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