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Funny Money: Pro Athletes Don’t Need Your Money; How to Watch Your Team Play for Less

How is it that professional athletes earn millions of dollars…just for playing a game? $10 hot dogs and $15 beers, that’s how. If you’re going to donate your hard-earned money to watch your favorite ball team play, at least be sensible about it. Here’s how.

Save money attending professional sports games.

Every sporting competition yields winners and losers. Well, except for soccer, which yields 0-0 ties. But the winners, losers and, uh, tie-ers are not limited to the competing athletes. There are also plenty of losers in the crowd, and I’m not just talking about no-life superfans who paint their faces and get in drunken shouting matches with complete strangers.

Nah, the losers are those who fall victim to the athletic industrial complex, financially exploited by a system rigged to bilk loyal fans out of disgusting sums of funds. Exploiting blind, forgiving loyalty of the fist-pumping masses, sports franchises — both college and pro — stick it to their fan bases wherever possible. Only at a sporting event, for instance, does it seem reasonable to fork over $30 for parking, $15 for a beer and $10 for a hot dog.

But scattered among the throngs of unfortunate victims are also winners. Those who work the system instead of letting it work them. Those who find loopholes and violate them the way LeBron James does Oklahoma City Thunder defenses.

Here is your playbook to finding the silver linings amid the dark and stormy financial realm of sporting events.

Never buy at the box office.

The powers that be, such as sports franchises and brokers such as Ticketmaster, fashion themselves as immune to the laws of supply and demand, piling ludicrous fees on top of obscene base prices for events. But even if the game you want to see is a sellout, you can almost always snag tickets for far lower than the asking price.

Thanks to corporate back-slapping, tons of tickets end up gratis in the hands of those who want nothing to do with them other than flip them online for a quick buck. Secondary selling markets such as StubHub and Craigslist allow corporate types to unload their free tickets on the market for cheap.

Pre-game your merchandise acquisitions.

Stadium gift shops are the worst places to buy hats, shirts and other team paraphernalia. If you want to represent your team’s colors on the cheap, stop by any nearby department store beforehand, or cruise the side streets for street vendors selling I-Can’t-Believe-They’re-Not-Knockoffs. Just make sure your team’s name is spelled correctly and the material used on the stuff feels durable enough to survive at least a couple runs through the washing machine.

When it comes to concessions, don’t play ball. 

If the spirit-crushing, Space Mountain-style lines weren’t enough to discourage you from buying food at the ballpark, the prices should be.

Insanely high profit margins let you support your franchise’s bottom line by taking out second mortgages in order to feed yourself at the game. The fine print on the back of your tickets, which usually forbid you to bring in outside food and drink, spell out how stadium rules play into the price gouging. The ways around this are to either disobey and sneak your own stuff in — a risky proposition in these days of pat-downs — or just schedule your meals around the sporting event in order to ensure you won’t get too hungry or thirsty during the game.

Should you find yourself ordering a drink at the game, be sure, at least, to demand no ice so you at least get all the overpriced carbonated syrup you paid for.

Embark on a shuttle launch rather than flying solo.

Carpooling is one way to take the bite out of obscene stadium parking fees, but if you’re going alone, mass transit is as good a bet as taking the Seattle defense against overwhelmed Peyton Manning. Either take a bus or look out for special event parking shuttles, which often depart from nearby shopping malls. You’ll avoid nasty traffic, parking garage gridlock, ludicrous parking fees and the chance that your windshield might get bashed in by a foul ball.

What about you? How do you enjoy your favorite sports events without dropping a fortune?

About Phil Villarreal

Phil Villarreal writes Funny Money weekly for Money Under 30. He lives in Tucson and works for the Arizona Daily Star. He's also an author, blogger and Twitterer.