I have a confession to make: Sometimes, I attend games alone.
Just like with any social situation, circumstances occasionally call for it. I like going to games as often as possible, but I’m not close to anyone else who aspires to attend so many events (and if I did, I’m sure they’d be blogging about it themselves!).
I have a supportive wife, but Mrs. Fan has her own pursuits and obligations that often prevent her from going on sports trips with me.
My daughter Little Fan, now 4, has been tagging along to plenty of games but isn’t quite old enough yet to constantly attend, or to travel with me.
So yes, sometimes I go alone.
I’m not writing this to tell you that going to games by yourself is preferable. After all, you’re already surrounded by tens of thousands of strangers at any sporting event you’ll attend, so of course it’s nice to have at least one person to talk to.
What I’m trying to say is that going alone isn’t all bad. Here’s what I’ve learned about it, and why I will continue to go to games solo if I have to (once fans are allowed to attend sporting events again, that is).
You’re free to see and do what you want
If I’m visiting a city to go see a game, I typically will invite friends who live there. But they’re not usually interested in walking around the venue, or checking out every menu at every food stand, or possibly changing seats. And I can’t blame them — they haven’t seen me in a while, so they want to talk to me!
So if I’m seeing a stadium or arena for the first time, I find sometimes it’s actually better to attend the game alone. I’m free to check out what I want to check out, and for me as a sports travel blogger, that often means a lot of walking, doubling back and spending a lot of time looking over things so I get the details right.
I totally understand that someone might not want to tag along and do those sometimes-tedious activities with me. More often than not these days, if I do want to catch up with someone in their city, doing so over dinner and drinks is usually much better than watching a game they might not be very interested in.
You’re not restricted by someone else’s schedule
Say you’ve dropped into town on a weeknight, ready to check out the game at 7 p.m. You want to get into the arena early to see warmups or walk around before the game begins. But your friends have to work, and they can’t get to the arena until 6:45. Now what?
Mobile ticketing, and the ability to text your ticket over to your friends so you don’t have to wait for them before entering, have diminished this issue somewhat. But let’s face it, common courtesy sometimes dictates that you wait. Whether that’s inside or outside the stadium, it could prevent you from taking in all that you want to experience.
You can often find better tickets going alone
Ever hear of the single-rider line at Disneyland? Basically, if you’re willing to ride an attraction alone, you can cut the line. This way, rides enjoy a fuller capacity and don’t operate with empty seats thanks to, say, a five-person party getting into a car that can hold six.
The same principle can benefit you at sporting events. You’ve surely scanned the ticket portal for a particular game and seen only single seats. For most people, that’s a deal-breaker, but if you’re going alone — or, if you’re willing to break up your party for the game — now you can get in. And quite often the single tickets are in prime seating areas.
Not to mention, many teams will make single seats available at a discount for upcoming games (usually they’ll do this on the day of the game or the day before), and ticketholders looking to offload a single will post them on the secondary market at huge markdowns. Yup, attend a game alone and you can save!
You can make new friends!
Depending on how social you are, this is the most positive aspect of going to a game solo.
I am far from the most outgoing person in the world, I admit. However, I have had a grand ol’ time attending a game alone on numerous occasions because I had the nerve to say something in passing to the person sitting next time, resulting in a really nice conversation.
One time at Denver’s Coors Field I wound up watching the Rockies next to the father of a family who had driven up from Colorado Springs. Turned out he deduced I was alone right away, since I had seat No. 1 of the row and his family had seats 2-5. But he enjoyed my tales of ballpark chasing and we spent a lot of the game discussing life in Colorado, enjoying a brilliant sunset over the Rocky Mountains and watching the Rockies win.
Another time at Wrigley Field I spent most of the time talking baseball strategy with the man next to me, an amateur coach — usually in the context of miscues by the Cubs that day. When the Cubs ran out of an inning by making the third out on an attempted steal of third — with the team’s hottest hitter at the time batting — we both loudly registered our displeasure, then lauded each other for being on the same wavelength.
Now, there certainly are drawbacks to going alone. Here are a few that I’ve found:
Sometimes people don’t want to talk to the creepy guy who’s by himself
Generally, I’ve found this to be more true the more intense, or important (ie. playoffs), the game is. You’ll probably notice the two positive anecdotes I shared above were from baseball games — I think the relaxed atmosphere lends itself to more friendly interaction.
NBA and NHL games aren’t so bad so I go alone quite a bit. NFL and college football games, though, are pretty tough. A lot of rabid fans don’t understand why someone would show up just to see the game or the stadium, and wearing neutral colors (as I usually do if my team isn’t involved) is viewed as basically the same as wearing the opposing team’s jersey to many. Sometimes they’ll even call you out on it.
I grin and bear it, or sometimes I tell them about this site, and it passes. But if you’re terribly self-conscious, this is an issue you have to consider.
You can’t be late to your seat if you’re alone
… or else you’re liable to have the people next to you put their coats and/or bags on your seat, convinced that no one bought the single in between.
And when you show up after the game has begun, you have to awkwardly tell them, yes, that’s my seat and, yes, I’m alone. Most people don’t try to hide their disappointment in those situations.
You have no one to share your experience with
This is obvious, and it’s the biggest bummer if you have a rooting interest in the game you’re watching solo. Even if you’re a neutral fan, being alone means you can’t talk about the game or about life with anyone.
I’ll admit that most games I’m attending by myself, I spend most of my idle time (that is, during intermissions when I’m not walking around the stadium) texting with people. If nothing else, that sends the signal that I may be alone right now, but I’m not a loser with no friends.
* * *
Ultimately, it’s up to you and how comfortable you are with social situations when you’re by yourself.
Am I advocating that you should go attend games alone as much as possible? Far from it. What I’m saying is this: Don’t let the fact you can’t find anyone to go with deter you from visiting that stadium you’ve longed to visit, or watching that game you’ve always wanted to see. Despite going solo, it’s still very much possible to have a great experience.