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White Sox Wed Apr 16 2014

The Joys of an Empty Sox Park

Sox_200.pngJust when I was about to head out the door to go to yesterday's White Sox game, I checked Twitter and saw some bad news. The club shut down the upper deck because of the blustery weather conditions. Cheapskates stay home! While the cancellation did save me from potential frostbite and certain discomfort - oh, and $7, too - it robbed me of one of my favorite experiences.

The Sox have had trouble filling the stadium in the early season. Not counting Opening Day and Saturday's afternoon game against the Indians (75-degree temps and a fleece blanket giveaway), the Sox are pulling in about 13,000 fans per game. The weather has been bad and the opponents haven't been too exciting, but 13,000 is pretty lackluster. That's bordering on Montreal Expos territory.

Yet I was still excited to go to the game Tuesday, mainly because the park would be empty. Am I a maniac? A psychopath? Not only was I going to this game alone (and I was considering keeping score, too!) but I actually enjoy being one of 10,000 fans at Sox games instead of one of 40,000. For a run-of-the-mill regular season game, at least.

I have a bunch of reasons why I cherish a deserted US Cellular Field. Other than my own introverted spirit, of course.

Tickets available on game day. I went to the second game of the season, and not only did two of my friends and I buy tickets at the door minutes before the first pitch, but another friend got off work during the game, bought a ticket at the gate and joined us during the fourth inning. Nice!

Purchasing tickets in advance sucks. Ticketmaster and StubHub are basically the devil, just because of all the B.S. taxes and fees. The only reason people buy from them is when a sell-out is possible. Nothing worse than going to the stadium to find there are either bad seats or no seats available. Sox fans don't have to worry about that this year.

No lines. I've stood in concession lines before that were so long I missed three innings of game action. Bathroom lines can be just as bad, worse if you're a woman. This year though you can walk right up and get your nachos or step in and use the urinal, no wait.

Personal vendors. The only downside is it can get kind of awkward when the same middle aged licorice rope-hawking vendor passes you by and stares you down five times in 90 minutes and you don't buy anything. Otherwise, if you want snacks or beer, someone will be right there for you.

Space. If you're a little over-prepared like me you might bring a ton of stuff to a ballgame - a camera, a sweatshirt, a bag - and then you might buy food, drinks or souvenirs, too. Where do you cram all that when the seats are filled? Under your seat, or on your lap. When no one's there? Put your junk wherever you want.

Better chances at a foul ball. There might not even be a mad scramble for one. You can walk to a stray ball.

Better chances at winning the 50/50 raffle. Scared money don't make money.

Better chances at catching a free T-shirt. You get the point.

Heckling is more effective. If heckling's your thing, your witty chant or sharp criticism is easily heard in the silence of Sox Park. Good times for you, bad times for Nick Swisher.

Relaxed atmosphere. Obviously this isn't great for a crucial regular season game, but it can be nice to have a low energy level at the park. Kick back and watch some guys play baseball in front of you, hoopla free. It's a little more intimate.

Sneaking! This is the best part of empty stadiums. It's so much easier to sneak to better seats. The odds of you actually sitting in someone's assigned seat is miniscule. Pay for a ticket and sit wherever you want.

It's not just about getting the best view, either. During afternoon games in the early spring months, it's important to stay warm. It's roughly 20 degrees warmer in the sun than it is in the shade (or at least it feels like it), so you can just skip around and stay in the daylight all game long.

The right to say you're a die hard fan. The Sox are getting some flak for their attendance this year. If anyone bashes Sox fans, and you've been going to the games, you can chime in and say how you're a true superfan. I tip my hat to everyone who attended last night's game against Boston.

I would have been there, but again, no $7 tickets.

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russ / April 16, 2014 11:15 AM

The great thing is there is such a lag between public awareness and ticket sales is that even if the Sox stay above .500 all year, there won't be any attendance effect until mid-June at the earliest.

But I think sports attendance is trending down anyway - the weak economy coupled with people age 22-34 with big college debt loads means there simply isn't going to be demand for tickets like there was 20 years ago. For example, look up ticket availability for the White Sox series in Fenway Park - that is the WS winning team and they can't sell all the tickets for Monday-Wednesday games.

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