The 10 Worst People to Sit Next to at a Sporting Event

The drunk, the autograph seeker, the screamer, the puker: 10 people that can ruin your experience at a live game
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Ah, live sports. A longstanding pillar of American culture, going to a game remains one of the best simple pleasures known to the average sports fan. Typically confined to the screens of your television or computer, even the average midseason showdown becomes a grand event once a ticket is purchased. You get to visit one of our many excellent stadiums and arenas, hear the sounds of the game, watch your favorite players live and sometimes witness a little slice of history. Often, you get to do so with your friends or family and create memories that strengthen both your fandom and bonds as humans. And of course, you can mingle with thousands of other fans rooting for (or against) your favorite team.

The only drawback to attending a live sporting event is the simple fact that you run the risk of being seated next to some real jerks. It’s a small (figurative) price to pay considering the actual prices on the tickets, food, beverages, parking, memorabilia, etc., but being forced to sit in the seat on your stub inevitably brings you in close proximity to some oddball fans. Spare me the yarn about sneaking down to the lower bowl; it’s 2019 not 1965. Stadium security is tighter than ever and the odds of you ending up next to an unsavory character down there are just as high.

Below you will find a list of the 10 worst people to sit next to at a sporting event. These people stand out for a variety of reasons. But no matter what the cause or the exact offense committed, these are the folks to be wary of lest your pleasant outing at the game turn into a tedious, emotionally exhausting battle for your sanity.

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10. The Drunk Person — A no-brainer pick to ease into the list, the drunk has been a staple at sporting events dating back to the legendary gladiator-vs-random African wildlife series at the Roman Colosseum in the first century. This person has become phased out a bit by the enormous financial commitment required to reach that state at a major sporting event in 2019 (though the lower levels of minor league baseball are still a land of opportunity for the drunk sports-goer), but determined folks find a way around such trivial issues. Inebriated people are typically harmless and often quite funny at sporting events because they are just happy to be there, but the decrease in motor skills becomes an issue for seat neighbors when the drunk person must shimmy over and around eight seats with two full beers in their hands. This is a difficult maneuver stone cold sober, so spillage inevitably occurs. Additionally, drunk over-exuberance combined with compromised motor skills can lead to incidents such as this one. 

Frequent trips to the loo ensures you will get your up-downs in for the day as the drunk stumbles back and forth from the bathroom. And at some juncture during the game, the inebriate will purchase the messiest possible food item from the concessions because that’s how your brain works on alcohol. That tray of nachos is both dripping cheese sauce and destined to end up in your lap when the stumbling, bumbling alcohol enthusiast catches a toe on your foot. Once you realize you’re seated next to the drunk person, the only thing that can really save you is a tarp.

9. The Standing Person — Here are three words nobody should ever need to scream at a sporting event: “DOWN IN FRONT!” Why? Because anybody with a brain understands this simple fact: if you stand when everyone else is seated, the people behind you cannot see. Abandoning this principle is inexcusable. If something occurs in the game that merits standing, then the entire stadium or arena will rise to its feet. Oh, you stood because YOU can’t see? You should have ponied up for closer seats or, better yet, stayed home and parked yourself a foot from the television screen. 

Though this complaint may be a better fit on the list of the worst people to sit behind at a sporting event, think of the potential collateral damage that may rain down on you if your next-door seat neighbor is a stander. That drunk individual from No. 10 is three rows back and can hardly see straight, much less take careful aim at the person (or is it people? He can’t tell, he’s drunk) blocking his view. Soon enough, his $12 beer gets fired off the back of your head by accident. Luckily, standing guy has napkins. Too bad there’s a slice of pizza inbound from four rows back.

8. The PDA Couple — While I will go on record saying the Kiss Cam is a solid source of in-game entertainment regardless of venue or sport, sitting next to a couple getting touchy is an intensely uncomfortable way to spend three hours of your life. Think about it like this; if you wouldn’t do it in front of your mother, don’t do it at a sporting event. That means no extended make-outs, no second base, absolutely NO third base and, well, you get the idea. These are just reliable rules for going out in public with your significant other, but they ring especially true at a sporting event. 

If you are among the lucky few who has a boyfriend/girlfriend/romantic partner interested enough in you or the free ticket you offer to attend a game as a pair, then don’t throw it in the faces of the thousands of nameless, loveless loners attempting to forget the lack of romance in their life by becoming over-invested in the sports team they are currently watching. Respect their wishes to mortgage their happiness on the successes and failures of athletes playing a game, you crazy lovebirds. Regardless, it’s inappropriate and tasteless to begin a public game of tonsil hockey with your significant other while the poor folks around you are just trying to enjoy some ice hockey.

7. The Cellphone Person — You would think, several decades into humanity’s generalized use of cell phones, people would be more familiar with the rules of the road. As a society, we developed certain unspoken laws to manage the power of carrying tiny computers in our pockets, but for some ungodly reason, the loud phone conversation in public lives on. The advent of mobile devices allowed this unfortunate practice to migrate into new spaces where mitigating factors (read: the sale of alcohol) greatly increase the likelihood of innocent bystanders being forced to listen to such discourse. 

Bars and sporting events are the front lines of the battle between common decency and the alcohol-fueled urge to scream at someone on the phone, and there is no end in sight. At a crummy bar, this person serves as part of the ambiance and general entertainment for the evening; at a sporting event, that person becomes the bane of your existence. Forget a lovely summer night spent languidly taking in some baseball. The person next to you just decided now is the time to have it out with an ex. There are plenty of good reasons to pick up the phone at a sporting event, but very few reasons to stay on the phone in your seat, especially since everyone within six feet in all directions is in earshot.

6. The Foul Ball Chaser/Adult Autograph Seeker — Think about how many times you’ve watched an NFL, MLB or NHL game and somehow a ball/puck works its way over to the stands. Those first rows are lined with the big fish, the deep-pocketed enthusiasts who want to smell the dip spit and hear coaches cussing out umpires and referees. Often, you will see small children in the mix looking to collect foul balls, touchdown balls, sticks, bat splinters, flecks of paint off helmets and other cherished memorabilia that will forever remind them of the time a 45-year-old male in cargo pants and a windbreaker charged across two sections of seats to snatch that memory out of their tiny hands. 

This person is the worst, yes, but they are also a dangerous neighbor at a sporting event because their passion for collecting useless, generally worthless trinkets from professional and collegiate athletes supersedes all other earthly responsibilities. If they can steal from a child, you better believe they will trample you, your family, your extended family and your pets en route to that foul ball. And don’t even suggest they pay for the hot dog slapped out of your hand by accident. Just like Timmy should have been quicker to reel in that souvenir, the adult autograph/ball seeker has no sympathy for your weak grip. Guess you didn’t want it bad enough.

5. The Screamer Without A Cause — A close cousin to the cellphone person is the screamer without a cause. First, a quick distinction must be made between hecklers and screamers. A heckler can be annoying and occasionally extremely rude to the athletes on the field, but they can also be creative. I once witnessed an enthusiastic young man at Fenway Park heckle the Cardinals bullpen for the last four innings of a game in which the St. Louis pen combined for a blown save and a loss in extras. It was hilarious, and the gentleman celebrated like he hit the walk-off (which, in a way, he did). I take no issue with good-natured heckling, but the screamer gets no slack. This is the “SHOOOOOOOOOOT” or the “HEYYYYY BATTAH BATTAH SWIIIIIIING” yeller, the person with no desire to do anything except make as much noise as humanly possible because, well, I’m not too sure. 

Much like a small child will scream at the top of their lungs just to see just how loud they can be, the screamer without cause finds no greater purpose than producing as much pointless, oxygen-sucking noise as possible. This person doesn’t need to be right next to you to ruin your game experience, but as the proximity between you and them decreases, your blood pressure increases. Everyone loves a full-throated stadium yell when something exciting happens, so save your vocal cords for those occasions and those occasions only.

4. The Smelly Person — The olfactory assaulter deserves the fourth spot because they can ruin your game experience simply by sitting next to you in the seat they paid for. You have no concrete right to remove them; they need no props, use no words and just allow their body’s aroma to waft over you gently like a sea breeze at low tide. The worst thing you can do in such a situation is realize what is happening; once you catch a whiff of the odor is and locate its origin, it will remain stuck in your nose hairs until you remove yourself from the biohazard zone. The issue here is, by distancing yourself from the scent, you remove yourself from your seat. The singular option is to suffer in silence, as hot showers and deodorant are not available at the pro shop. 

The wanton abandon with which the smelly person attends a sporting event is what makes them so dangerous. Being sweaty is understandable, but being noticeably smelly requires a severe lack of personal hygiene AND a flagrant disregard for fellow event attendees. Teams don’t pack stadiums by giving folks enough room to comfortably move around, so the smelly person knows they will be in close physical proximity to a number of innocent bystanders. And yet, the shower is not taken, the deodorant is not swiped, the clothes are not washed and the tears will continue to well in the eyes of seat neighbors on all sides.

3. The Person Who Berates Opposing Fans — Now this is a brand of heckler that I cannot cosign. This person is the self-appointed defender of all that is sacred about their favorite team, including the hallowed grounds on which they play. They fail to understand the simple fact that sports fans are just one big community united by a strange passion for watching other people play games and divided into subgroups based purely on choice of team and choice of sport. Fans of opposing franchises are typically welcomed into the home team’s stadium with a heckle, the occasional insult, maybe some good-natured ribbing and nothing more because everyone understand they are just there to watch the game. They who berate are not here to watch the game. They who berate are here to make the next three hours of a visitor’s day a living hell because the interloper roots for a team that isn’t theirs. The merest glimpse of a fan draped in the hideously offensive colors of that day’s opponent triggers a vicious verbal assault that can last for hours. 

Every time your team makes a mistake, gives up some points or fails at some aspect of the game, this person is in your ear. Every time their team scores, stops your team or does something to improve their chances of winning, this person is in your ear. Every time you go to draw a breath with that jersey on your shoulders, this person is in your ear. The best advice for fans who choose to wear their team’s gear to an opposing stadium is typically to laugh off the hecklers. But the relentless hours of drivel from the oddly determined, get-off-my-lawn heckler cannot be laughed off. It wears you down, burrows deep beneath your skin and festers there. Even folks on the same side of the fence as the heckler get exhausted after listening to hours of half-baked, wholly unoriginal insults. The ONLY hope for salvation is a victory by the away team. Otherwise, you might as well let your new friend sit on your lap on the ride home. Trust me, they’ll have plenty of thoughts about the game.

2. The Puker — A deplorable specimen rarely seen in the wild, the puker might be the worst possible seat neighbor on the market. The outrageous combination of factors that must fall into place for you to find yourself sitting next to somebody vomiting in their seat at a sporting event would likely rival the odds of being struck by a shark or bitten by lightning, but it happens. This may be more of an issue at college sporting events, but even a heightened atmosphere of debauchery does not excuse a vomiting neighbor. In fact, while the rest of the people on this list may have an unsatisfactory but coherent reason for their behavior, there are ZERO excuses for puking in your seat. That means you are either sick or drunk and could not break enough tackles to get to the bathroom. If you are ill and sudden bouts of vomiting are one of the side effects, then you should be laid up at home near the toilet. Props to you for deciding to go through with your own personal Flu Game, but infecting half the stadium along the way and creating a puddle of sick under your seat is a far cry from an MJ-level performance. 

If you’re drunk, then I hope for your pride’s sake that you are an undergrad at a college football game. Drinking yourself to the point of being sick at a sporting event is both financially irresponsible and utterly ridiculous. The ramifications for seat neighbors in the event of a puker nearby are straightforward and downright dire. First, the obligatory hand to the mouth preceding the vomit often sprays the offending fluid in multiple directions rather than right onto the floor, meaning anybody to the left or right is in range. Shoes and clothes are ruined for the day and often for life, making for a stinky ride home. The retching is often sudden and escape routes are only an option for aisle sitters, meaning once the nightmare begins, there’s no way out. And should someone else with a weak stomach smell the odor and feel a wave of nausea coming, then may God have mercy on your soul.

1. The Marriage Proposal People — Breaking the rules a bit for the top seed, but for good reason. It amazes me that, as a young, single male, I can understand why it is a horrible, misguided, stupid idea to propose to your significant other in front of thousands of people at a sports game. You can see for yourself why it’s a terrible idea below, and yet people continue to think it’s romantic and thoughtful. 

For starters, folks on both sides of the aisle think about the moment someone special will pop the question for years. Imagine the cognitive dissonance that occurs when watching your significant other awkwardly stand in front of their seat, stumble over some feet while getting in position and drop the knee into a pile of peanut shells and a ramekin of nacho cheese sauce. Perhaps you envisioned a romantic walk down a beach, an evening at the restaurant where you had your first date, a stroll through the nicest park in the city or any of the other millions of individual locations on planet Earth that are not a stadium or arena. Instead, sports game proposal person decided the nearby friendly confines would do just fine. I suppose if the relationship is strong enough to survive the gaze of thousands of eyeballs watching its most significant moment then it was time well spent, but an occasion that special is not meant to be shared with a stadium full of strangers. Remember, sports games are where people go to apply full-body paint, drink overpriced beer and litter directly onto the ground under their seats. Nobody wants to feel the secondhand embarrassment from watching a relationship crumble as a hapless stranger feels the string of the ultimate rejection because they decided to propose at a sports game. So, if you are bold enough to follow through with your horrible plan of action—or even worse, broadcast it on the jumbotron—then you have nobody to blame for what ensues except yourself.