Similarities Between Live Basketball and Baseball Games, Ranked

I’m in Chicago this weekend to celebrate my friend Spencer’s wedding. Spencer and I have been friends since kindergarten, and during that time we’ve had some great basketball moments.

We defeated his neighbors in a 2-on-2 game after they VERY cockily thought they’d destroy us (in your face, neighbors whose name I don’t remember).

We also played 21 at the park a bunch of times. If you’re not familiar with the game, it’s an “everyone for themselves” type of endeavor where you aim to be the first one to 21 points. If you make a shot, you shoot a free throw to add to your score. If you make that free throw, you get another one.

You can throw in little wrinkles, like if you miss a free throw when you have 20, you drop back down to 13 (or zero, if your friends are very cruel), or if someone tips in a missed shot, you lose points.

Traditionally, people also limit the free throws you get to attempt. For instance, if you make three in a row, you take the ball up top and get back to 1-on-1 (or 1-on-1-on-1-on-1-on-1 if you’re playing with five people).

For some reason, Spencer and I never made that rule. I made a jump shot for two points and then proceeded to make 19 straight free throws, winning 21-0.

It’s among the greatest accomplishments of my basketball career and only one other person was there to witness it. Sounds about right.

Anyway, congrats to Spencer. While in Chicago, I impromptu decided to go to a Chicago White Sox game yesterday afternoon. They were playing the Los Angeles Dodgers in what turned out to be a pretty darn entertaining game, with a whopping 20 combined runs, multiple home runs, a triple that literally skateboarded the top of the outfield wall, and a whole lot of dancing.

While watching this game unfold, I wondered: What are some of the most (and least) enjoyable overlapping elements of watching basketball and baseball in person?

10. Drunken fans spilling drinks

This is always the lowest at any live sporting event. Drunk fans can be very entertaining — we encountered a pair who were collecting empty cups so they could make a super tall cup tower, which is delightful — but once they start spilling on you, it’s a different ball game.

9. Eight seconds of the same songs playing over and over again

At basketball games, many teams have their own “during the action” songs that play. These are often instrumental versions of hip-hop songs, but sometimes you might get the classic stomp, stomp, clap of a “We Will Rock You.”

At baseball games, each hitter has their walk-up music, which is a short snippet of a song every time they come up to bat.

In both cases, you’re hearing a repetitive bit of music.

8. The Wave

At some point during a lull in the action, one section will start a wave. I’m not entirely sure how these begin — once, at a high school football game, there was a man running in front of the bleachers to let us know when we were supposed to stand up.

But that was a crowd of maybe 300 people. Is there, like, a wave committee that decides “NOW IS THE TIME?!” Or is there just someone with a very loud voice that says “hey, people around me, we’re gonna do the wave?”

I dislike the wave generally, since it distracts me from what’s going on (and I’m sure is distracting to the players, too). Regardless, it’s good to stretch.

7. Fouls

Whether you’re watching basketball or baseball, fouls usually are not very entertaining. They slow down the pace of the game.

The rare exception is if a foul ball gets hit in your direction during a baseball game. In that case, people revert to Lord of the Flies to collect a souvenir they will probably lose the next time they move. It’s horrific, but you can’t look away.

6. Snack attacks

It’s nearly impossible to go to a sporting event without eating at least something. Perhaps you’re like my friend Sean who orders a white wine and then gets berated by children. Or maybe you just prefer some classic concessions.

Some places have introduced pretty outrageous foodstuffs, but I’ll still take a hot dog any day of the week…but only one because hot dogs are so, so, terrible for you and I only ever eat them at sporting events.

At the White Sox game, each interaction with a vendor prompted a menu screen asking me if I wanted to tip. And I’m sorry, but with the price of a can of beer sitting between $10 and $15, I’m not throwing an extra 15% on for the simple act of turning around and picking up a can of beer, then handing it to me. Yet I feel guilty hitting “no tip,” and I don’t like that feeling, so snack attacks slip a couple of spots here.

5. Obscure Jumbotron statistics

This one certainly happens more during baseball games because there’s more downtime, but you’ll still spot it at basketball contests. Anything to share more content, baby! I feel the struggle of Jumbotron controllers.

At the White Sox game, they were referencing statistics from 2014. That’s EIGHT YEARS AGO. There was also a stat about how one White Sox hitter was among the best at hitting sinkers that were a certain speed or faster during the 2020 season. What an oddly obscure and specific stat.

4. Fans standing up during potentially exciting moments

Once during a Phoenix Suns vs. Miami Heat basketball, Sean and I almost witnessed the greatest dunk in NBA history. An aging Grant Hill took off from the free throw line and looked ready to pull the entire rim down. Alas, he was fouled and missed the dunk.

Still, Sean and I leapt out of our seats simply because of the potential of the moment. That’s an awesome experience on both the basketball court and the baseball field.

Where this falls apart is during critical moments at baseball games when the home team is pitching. For instance, an 0-2 count with two outs and the bases loaded. One more strike and the inning is over, so the crowd stands up and cheers. And then there’s a ball. But we’re still standing! Then there’s another ball. Okay, 2-2 now, not too bad. Then there’s a wild pitch and a run scores, and everyone sits down with their tail between their legs.

3. Watching players who don’t have the ball

There’s so much that goes on during a sporting event that people don’t see because they’re following the ball.

But you’re missing some magical moments if you go that route.

Next time you’re at a game, watch a basketball player move around without the ball or check out what’s going on over at the end of the bench. If you’re watching baseball, the other defensive players on the field can be particularly entertaining as well, especially if they get distracted by something happening in the crowd, like the wave.

2. Player celebrations

If you think fans celebrating is fun, how about the players actually performing these cool moves? Some players, such as Antoine Walker, had their own unique wiggles after big moments; others just let their bodies take them on a ride.

When White Sox second baseman Josh Harrison hit a triple early in the game, he did a little motorcycle revving dance. They replayed that highlight like five times and I lapped it up every single time.

1. Fan Cams during breaks in the action

No matter the sporting event, you’re going to get top-notch people watching. And with a huge Jumbotron at basketball and baseball games, you’ll get a crystal clear view of the action, even if you’re sitting thousands of feet away from the person or people on the screen.

My personal favorite is one person noticing they’re on camera while the people around them remain oblivious. The first person frantically tries to get them to look up, with varying degrees of success.

However, you get such a variety of Jumbotron moments that it truly is a grab bag of joy. From people dancing with minimal coordination to someone enjoying a funnel cake a little TOO much to the occasional nose pick, you’re going to have a blast.

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