It’s the sports fan’s mirage. The oasis in the desert. You’re upper level, looking down on the action just wondering, “What would this game look like from down there?”
If you do make the decision to move down, prepare yourself for an evening filled with anxiety. For some reason it’s mildly terrifying sitting in seats that are not your own. Every single person that comes walking toward your section looks like they’re The One. You can’t really enjoy the game because you’re constantly scanning for the seat’s rightful owners. In reality, it’s no big deal. It’s not like you’re in their shower. You’re just sitting in a seat at a game. But it feels like you’re doing something horrible.
And when it finally happens and someone comes up and does the whole pull-their-ticket-out-and-look-confused thing, you have to play it off like you didn’t know. Oh, look at this. This is section 103. I thought it was 303!
We’ve all moved down at some point in our lives. Or at least thought about it. That’s me. Any game I show up to and am sitting upper level, I always say, “Oh, we’ll just move down.” And I never do. Except one time. But it didn’t go so well. Here’s what happened.
My wife and I went to a game last season with tickets to sit in Loud City, pretty much the only place we’ve ever been. To that point, I had only sat lower level once and she never had. So we vowed to move down. We were going to hold ourselves to it.
So we went in with a plan. We were going to watch two seats the entire first half and then make a move right after halftime. We stared down two seats and at the half, made our move.
We got down there and started towards the open seats. They were only about 10 rows off the floor. But standing literally in the seats was an usher, talking to some other fans. Our plan was busted. Someone sitting on the aisle behind us saw us, recognized the DT-Shirts we were wearing and said something about them to me. Naturally I introduced myself and then for some reason explained why we were lingering so awkwardly in his section. The guy pointed at the four seats directly in front of him and said, “Nobody has been in those all night.”
So my wife and I sat down. Victory, we thought. We made it.
We were in the seats for about five minutes when I saw Sam Presti and assistant GM Troy Weaver walking up the aisle towards us. I nudged my wife and said, “Hey, Sam Presti.” She looked up, thought it was cool and that was it. But Presti kept coming up the aisle with an eye where we were sitting. He then gets to our row, looks right at me and says, “Are these your seats?”
I sheepishly put my head down and say, “No.” Presti smiles and sits down next to me saying, “Hey, at least you’re honest.”
So there we are having finally moved down and wouldn’t you know it, we wound up in Sam Freaking Presti’s seats. What are the odds. I mean seriously. About three awkward minutes go by before I finally muster the courage to introduce myself. I lean over and say, “Hey Mr. Presti, my name is Royce Young,” and he immediately cuts me off and excitedly shakes my hand. Luckily he had remembered me from the interview I did with him over that summer. He asked me a whole bunch of questions like where I went to school, where I live, who some of my biggest writing influences are and other things. And then we sat there and watched the second half.
Let me tell you, it was quite the random night.
(Since then, I’ve talked to Presti quite a few times. The first time I saw him after it was at the All-Star Game. I apologized for stealing his seats and he thought it was pretty hilarious. In other words, Sam Presti is pretty terrific, even though I still feel dumb about it.)
Anyway, the point is, in our first (and last) move-down attempt, we crashed and burned pretty big time. So here’s a little guide to help if you want to try it.
Watch multiple sets for at least the entire first quarter. This is kind of tough in Oklahoma City, seeing as the arena is 95 percent full nightly. But there are always a few sets of seats that aren’t filled. Eye those bad boys for the entire first quarter, making sure no one ever shows up to them. If they’re clear the entire time, make a move about half way through the second. Scouting is especially key. You can’t just go after a pair of seats on a whim. You’ve got to do your homework.
Look for a string of six or seven empties. This is part of the planning. It’s better to find a row that has multiple empty seats so that way if God forbid someone shows up and you have to move, you can just slide down a bit. And don’t make a big deal of it. Just say, “Oh” and move over. That’s it. Don’t try and pretend like you were confused or innocent. Just slide over and forget it.
Don’t be a hero. I know you want to sit courtside. I know you see those two open chairs right at halfcourt. But you’ve got to play it cool. No matter what you’re upgrading so just accept the fact you’re closer. Don’t go for the Nicholson seats. Look for your string of empties and don’t deviate from your plan. If you happen to end up at the top of 103, just accept it. Again, you’re better off than you were.
Confidence. You can’t try and sneak into your new spot. You’ve got to go down like you own those seats. The moment you commit to sit in them, they are yours. If you hesitate and look uncomfortable, everyone will know you’re the poor person trying to sit with the rich folk. You’ve got to go in with some confidence.
Sit in the middle of a row. I actually asked one of the usher’s for a little advice on this and he said that sitting in the middle makes you tougher to get. Even if an usher knows you moved up, if you’re in the middle, it’s almost not worth the hassle of getting you out.
Mind your business. Once you get there, play it cool. Don’t heckle, don’t yell, don’t jump up and down and act like an idiot. You don’t want to draw attention to yourself and the fact you don’t belong.
Don’t sit in Sam Presti’s seats. I would say that this should probably be rule No. 1. At least it is on my list now.