April 23, 1995 in Sports

Cell Phones Become Hottest Ticket In Sports

Maryln Schwartz Dallas Morning News
 

I am continually fascinated by the intensity of the fans at sporting events<. “So what?” you say. Fans are always intense when they are watching their teams perform.

I’m not talking about people watching the event.

I’m talking people talking on the telephone.

If there were a Super Bowl of talking on cellular phones, it would have to be held during a football, basketball or hockey game.

It’s incredible. There must be something about aggression, brutality and inedible $5 hot dogs that just drives a person to start dialing across America.

Now I know the same thing happens at concerts, shopping malls and even grocery stores. But none of those phone calls compares with the cellular phone obsession that takes over at a sports event.

I have a friend who says his uncle talked on the telephone during the entire Dallas-San Francisco playoff game last January in California. He did this right from the 40-yard line.

“He called my aunt in Dallas to complain about the bad field at the game,” says Dallas engineer Jerry Fields. “He traveled all the way to California to do that. He could have stayed home and watched the game on TV if that was what he wanted to do.”

Recently, I was at a Dallas Mavericks game and went to get some popcorn. To get to the concession stand, I had to cross what seemed to be a whole line of people pacing up and down. Back and forth. Back and forth.

They were old, young, men, women. But they all had one thing in common - they all were shouting into little hand-held cellular phones. I watched and took notes. These people weren’t on calls of only a few minutes. They talked and talked and talked. Every once in a while someone would grab a passer-by and ask the score. Then they’d start pacing again. They were nowhere near the game.

It’s not that it was something new. I see this at any sports event. At the Super Bowl in Atlanta a year ago, I saw a whole gaggle of Dallas Cowboys fans pacing the outer areas of the stands, talking during the most intense part of the game.

And this was the Super Bowl, for goodness’ sake. These people paid hundreds of dollars for tickets.

It’s the same at hockey games. I’m sure it will be the same when major-league baseball resumes.

I’m so intrigued, I decided to really get to the bottom of this. I wasn’t just going to watch. I was going to start asking some questions.

What is so important that people paying $30, $40 and $50 a ticket leave their seats and spend the whole time talking on the phone? Whom are these people talking to?

I tested this at the Mavericks game. I watched one man walk behind the seats and talk for just over 15 minutes. I approached him before he could dial another number.

He looked stunned when I asked. But he didn’t mind talking. “I’m calling a customer to check some business I did earlier,” said software salesman Darrell Winfrey. “I’m calling a friend to check on a racquetball game in the morning. And I’m checking my answering machine.”

Was this necessary during a basketball game? Didn’t he care about the game?

“It’s a nervous habit,” he said. “I don’t know, I just do it. It’s kind of a kick, having the phone and all.”

He admitted his bills are enormous.

Many of the phone users I questioned said the calls were urgent and necessary. It was business. They had no choice.

Then why go to the game? Why not stay home and take care of business?

They were appalled that I even asked.

“I wouldn’t miss a game,” said one man. “TV isn’t the same. You can’t take away the thrill of being there in person.”


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