We all want to be a little closer to the action, even if we have to bend the rules a little bit to get there.
As we go through life, we all pick up certain skills and areas of interest. Some are more useful than others.
While I’m mostly a man of extraordinarily modest abilities, I do OK on a few things. My writing is at least somewhat coherent. I can thread an old movie projector. I’m remarkably proficient in pulling stuffed animals out of those skill crane machines. And I’m pretty good at making pancakes.
And I also have, over the course of a number of years, become incredibly well-versed at sneaking into better (i.e. more expensive) seats at ballgames and other events.
I’m nearing the final level in the mastery of seat-sneaking. If they gave out degrees in the art of seat-sneaking, I’d have my Ph.D. at this point. I’ve sat in the lower deck at ballgames, despite having nosebleed tickets, so many times that Ticketmaster should hire me as a consultant to come give a talk on how to stop people like me.
Of course, successfully sneaking into better seats at a game doesn’t necessarily take an incredible amount of skill. Mostly you just need a little (irrational) confidence, some luck, perhaps a prop or two (you’re much less likely to be asked to show your tickets if you have a drink and a hot dog in your hands), and be willing to accept the fact that you might get chased off by an octogenarian usher.
Not all seat-sneaking experiences are created equal, obviously.
One time, years ago, my friend Michael and I had some upper deck tickets to see the Atlanta Braves play the New York Yankees at Turner Field, but ended up sitting in the luxury club seats. I won’t into full details, but this involved finding a single club seat ticket stub on the ground inside the ballpark, an escalator, a smoking deck and an usher at the door to the luxury area who was, um, less than eagle-eyed. I think the “Mission: Impossible” theme song might have been playing softly in the background when we were pulling that one off. All I know is that it was nice to be in the air conditioning on that hot Georgia night.
And then there was the night my dad and I went to a Charlotte Hornets game and had tickets literally in the top row of the upper deck. The definition of nosebleeds. We got there early and went right down by the court to watch the teams warm up. (The Hornets were playing the Detroit Pistons.) As game time grew closer, and the crowd started piling in, Dad and I were feeling brazen, so we just sat in a couple of seats right near midcourt, two rows up from the floor.
The key in these situations is to act confident and try to look like you belong. That plan was going well until right before tip-off, when a man approached us.
“You know, these seats belong to the Hornets’ team chaplain,” he said.
“Really?” my dad said. “And how do you know that?”
“Because I’m the team chaplain, and these are my seats,” the man shot back.
His theological education must have leaned heavily on the idea of forgiveness, because he let us stay in his seats, while he grabbed another nearby. That’s been a few years ago, but it remains the closest to the court I’ve ever sat at an NBA game. We were essentially courtside.
Most recently, I did some quality seat-sneaking at an Atlanta Braves-Milwaukee Brewers game last Sunday, at the still-new SunTrust Park. We had tickets up in the third deck, right in the sunshine. Being Atlanta in late May, the temperature was approximately 6,382 degrees. So, we decided to instead set up shop in the lower bowl, in the shady seats under the overhang.
We used perhaps the boldest of seat-sneaking methods: We just waited until the usher wasn’t looking, walked down into the lower bowl, sat in some sweet seats, and prayed no one would come along and claim them. Like I said, irrational confidence.
And guess what? No one ever did come along to claim those seats. On a blazing Atlanta afternoon, we stayed comfortable in the shade down along the first base line, despite the fact that our tickets said we were supposed to be sitting, essentially, on Jupiter.
Want to sneak into some better seats at a game? Sometimes it takes creativity. Sometimes it requires an inattentive usher. Sometimes you just get lucky.
And, very rarely, you might even find yourself at the mercy of a team chaplain.
Stay sneaky, y’all.