A Goodwill Gesture: A Free Beer at the Ballgame

Even in the most comfortable of great seats in some of today’s ballparks, chances are you’re going to be sitting closer to a stranger than you’d like. This, especially for somewhat introverted people like me, can be a source of discomfort. Introducing yourself to strangers, something our parents always told us not to do, is difficult, and we just want to have a good time at the ballgame.


But you’ll likely get to talking to folks a little bit, as I have done many times. And you’ll discover that you may have a few things in common. Well of course you do. You love baseball enough to pay the considerable price to see it live, even if it means sitting just inches away from strangers. Something in the brain must be functioning properly.


I find that nothing builds up goodwill with your new and intimate neighbor than buying that person a beer, if they’re the sort that likes one or two at the game.


It’s a friendly enough gesture anywhere to offer someone a beer, but at ballpark prices, it’s above and beyond. Most ballparks charge upwards of $7 for a brew nowadays, so you’re being especially generous there. Maybe I’m weird, but while $7 is too much for me to buy a beer for my own self, I don’t consider it overpriced as a matter of building a rapport with the fellow in the seat next to me. And what the heck, while I’m establishing solidarity, I’ll have one too.


I remember my first trip to then-Jacobs Field. I was by myself wearing Orioles gear (and saw Ripken’s only home run ever at the Jake, incidentally). When I first sat down in my lone upper level seat, there was no one to my right, and the guys to my left were not overly friendly to the partisan outsider fan. Not unfriendly, but not shaking my hand or anything either.


The people sitting to my right found their seats shortly after the game started, and they chatted me up a little bit, which I appreciated. I wasn’t causing a scene or anything else that ticks off the home fans, but I thought it was nice anyway. So I bought both of them a beer—and then the guy on my left suddenly started becoming friendlier, asking me how many strikeouts Jamie Moyer had (I was keeping score). Coincidence? I think not!


Another time, in my first trip to Toronto, a nice Canadian chap was fascinated by the idea of my taking the trip all the way from New Jersey to see SkyDome, and bought me a Labatt’s, assuring me that I did not need to return the favor when I told him I couldn’t afford to. Up to that point, I hadn’t had a drop, and the beer was good and cold. And I will always think highly of that gentleman, as I would hope the Indians fans I shared brews with would think of me.


Buying a beer for your neighbor is a swell thing to do for a few reasons. First, of course, is the money you’ve saved them. I don’t mean this in a way to say people are selfish, but while they may pinch pennies when it comes to buying beer at the game, they will gladly drink one offered by someone else with no strings attached. Second, a beer will help the person loosen up and relax and not feel so bad about sitting so close to a stranger. Third, there’s a fair chance that the recipient of your largesse will return the favor. Win-win!


And if you have a great time at the ballgame—which often comes simply from having an enjoyable, relaxed, I’m-just-happy-I’m-not-at-work conversation with the person next to you during the contest—isn’t that worth $7?


But remember, don’t drink and drive, at least not in that order.


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