What Makes Sporting Events So Fun?

Maybe you’re one of those folks who, with equal parts confession, condescension, and irony, wears a “Go Sports Ball Team” T-shirt.

Maybe, because of the traffic, distance, or perceived expense, you’re in the “it’s better on TV” crowd.

Whatever the reasons you have for not attending live sporting events, there as many — and many more — to join the crowd. For many of us, walking up shadowed stairs from the concourse into the brilliant sunshine, the greensward below dotted with giants literal and figurative, becomes a transformative experience.

Even if transformation isn’t what you’re after — and even if you’re not a fan of the games you can get to — everyone should experience the unpredictable drama, comedy, and spectacle of a live sporting event. Not to mention the peanuts and hot dogs.

Here are some of our favorite reasons for taking ourselves out to the ballgame.

Tailgating: Literal pregaming! Keep it as simple as a cooler full of your favorite beverages or break out the briquets (charcoal) and the boards (cornhole and/or charcuterie). All of a sudden, your trunk or liftgate is a party. Watching the stream of humanity pass by on their way into the stadium can be as much fun for some as the games themselves.

Communal Energy: Watch a comedy in a crowded theater on opening night or stream it by yourself. Chances are, you’ll find yourself laughing more often and more loudly in the theater. Why? You’re getting swept up in the communal experience. Just about any sporting event offers drama and tension by the bushel, heightened by the focused attention of thousands of fully invested observers.

Unpredictability: Nothing’s automatic in sports. Not a fourth-and-one, not a two-foot putt, not a free throw. Rock shows, live theater, the circus — these all tease the notion that anything can happen. Sporting events deliver it.

In-Game Entertainment: Sure, there are halftime shows. But virtually every big-time sporting event is interspersed with more than enough showbiz razzmatazz to keep even the newbies and the non-fans engaged. T-shirt cannons, cheerleaders, scoreboard infotainment, and classics such as the kiss cam energize those moments when the action on the field pauses.

Promotions: Who doesn’t like free stuff? These days, a typical Major League Baseball home schedule has as many nights with giveaways, special themes, and pre- or postgame entertainment as not. Take, for example, the Chicago White Sox, whose 2023 home schedule includes giveaways for up to 20,000 fans of team-themed hockey and basketball jerseys, throwback hats, Hawaiian shirts, track jackets, bobblehead dolls, and fanny packs; regular fireworks nights; country and western night; Elvis night; Pride night; and something called Yoga at the Park.

Merch: You can get team-branded anything just about anywhere these days, but there’s something extra special about scoring a souvenir from the event you attended. Go ahead and enjoy that hat, sweatshirt, or even a plastic helmet from which you ate far too much ice cream.

The Food: You can have a Dodger Dog in Los Angeles, a Fenway Frank in Boston, some Boog’s BBQ in Baltimore, or any number of amazing nonteam branded fare in stadia around the country (try the toasted ravioli when taking in a game at Busch Stadium). Just show up hungry. There’s always another stand selling something amazing.

It’s Fun: Sporting events are an escape from the daily grind. They’re a people-watching opportunity. They can simply be an evening’s respite from routine or the centerpiece of a quick getaway to a fun city. You don’t have to be a die-hard to dig it.

It’s a Community: When you get around truly passionate sports fans, you might be amazed, amused, intrigued, a little bit frightened, or some of all of the above. You might also get a little bit of a contact high from all that fan fervor. That’s when you find yourself knowing the players without a scorecard, wearing the merch, and chatting up fans in neighboring seats about your team’s prospects.

Check It Out

Yes, live sporting events are more expensive than catching the game on TV. Checking with the right ticket service can yield useful tips on getting good deals for big games or cost-friendly alternatives, especially in the MLB ticket resale market. Whether you just want to try something new, check off a bucket list item, or treat someone special, be careful, you just might become a regular bleacher creature.




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