Full disclosure: My father is a cheap sports fan and proud of it. We'd sit at the top of the nosebleeds at baseball or basketball games. We'd compare ticket packages to see which one gave the deepest discount or most return for his investment. ("Two tickets, two programs and five White Castle burgers? Sold!").
He once gave me a hockey jersey with a logo made of electrical tape. I've forgiven him.
But he's not alone in his frugality, especially in tough economic times. Katie Adams of Investopedia writes about ways for sports fans to save money while attending events, from splitting season tickets to shopping around for the best deals; like the fact that it costs a family, on average, about $90 less to see a Carolina Hurricanes game than it does to see a Florida Panthers game. Which is criminal.
Inspired by her article, and by a childhood of forced thriftiness, here are five additional ways to experience sports on the cheap.
1. The Last-Minute Ticket Blitz: While we would never condone purchasing tickets from a scalper outside the arena, it's a commonly held belief that the closer it gets to game-time, the lower the price for the seats. Heck, by the second period, they'll practically pay you to take the tickets if they're still lurking around the building.
But sites like StubHub, eBay and especially Craigslist feature many upstanding citizens (i.e. season-ticket holders) trying to unload tickets they can't use. In the case of Craigslist -- that wondrous online flea market that's drained newspaper classified sales and provided a home for that armoire you want to sell -- tickets can be picked up locally just hours before game-time. If you're willing to take the gamble that they won't be snatched up by someone else, winning the waiting game could mean naming your price for a desperate seller.
2. Gear From The Dearly Departed: It happens in every sport -- players leave as free agents or get traded away, and retailers are stuck with oodles of suddenly irrelevant gear.
That's the time to strike. A few years back, I snagged a New York Jets jersey featuring Kevin Mawae -- a well-liked offensive lineman who left for the Tennessee Titans -- for roughly 80-percent off the retail price. Last week, I dropped $15 for a Vince Carter New Jersey Nets authentic road jersey that was originally $75.
The NHL is no different. If you're a Florida Panthers fan who respects the way former defenseman Jay Bouwmeester(notes) plays the game, there's still time to snag a T-shirt for $12 off the retail price. It all comes down to whether or not you can stomach having that ex-whatever-your-team player's name on your back. Which is why as nice as a $10 NHL T-shirt sounds, Detroit Red Wings fans probably aren't lining up for one-year wonder Marian Hossa's(notes) gear.
3. Find a Brat With a Birthday, Get Free Stuff: Group rates are a perfect way to bring down the ticket price, but it's usually hard enough to get five people to the game, let alone 25. But if you can find about 10, and one of them is a youngster, you're in business.
Teams frequently offer birthday packages with discounted tickets and all sorts of goodies. The St. Louis Blues last season offered a "party pack" for children 14 and under, for a minimum of 10 tickets purchased: A ticket, a hot dog and a soda, gift packs for the party guests and an autographed puck for the birthday boy or girl. So find a young fan with an in-season birthday, and use them for your own nefarious purposes. It's a birthday they'll never forget, no matter how many hours they subsequently spend in therapy.
4. The Dreaded Entertainment Book: Yes, the coupon book of biblical proportions, that some fund-raising middle school kid made you feel guilty enough to buy. Ah, but 'tis not just for enticing offers from local Mexican eateries to enjoy one complementary entrée when a second entrée of equal or greater value is purchased; dig deep, and you'll find deep discounts for sports tickets.
Teams like the Chicago Blackhawks and the Washington Capitals are among those found in local Entertainment Books; in the Caps' case, up to eight tickets could have been purchased last season for 40 percent off the face value. Hit that Mexican restaurant beforehand, and it's the cheap date that looks expensive ... which is the best kind of cheap date, isn't it?
5. Finally, Keep Searching, Even in the Oddest Places: The economy stinks and sports teams are badly craving your entertainment dollars. That combination leads to some random ticket offers that you need to be mindful to look for in the strangest places.
How many people in Phoenix expected to have a chance to snag a free Coyotes ticket with the purchase 1.75L of vodka? How many drivers in Florida knew that simply having a valid license would have earned them two tickets to a Panthers game last season?
Desperate times call for desperate measures; that goes for pro sports teams and the fans that watch them.
Any suggestions from the readership on being a sports fan on the cheap?