Etiquette for the Sports Fan

A few rules to keep it sportsmanlike, for the enjoyment of all.

Sport is an incredible thing—ever since the dawn of man it seems we have been competing against each other in feats of strength, speed and skill. The Ancient Greeks had the Olympics, the Romans had the Coliseum and today we have whatever sport we fancy. There is something about sport that draws people to it; it could be the way it bridges social, racial and political divides. It is for all these reasons that I and countless millions of men love sport (although not just men obviously).

However, as good as sport is it can be ruined by people who have no concern for those around them. These people get in the way of everyone else having a good time, are you one of these people? You might be and not even know it!

Watch Your Mouth

I don’t want to count the number of times I’ve been at a sports event where the person next to me takes it upon themselves to recite the whole of urban dictionary. Not only do the surrounding supporters find it incredibly irritating but you look like a jerk.

Then again I’m a grown man it’s unlikely that the guy next to me is going to be shouting an insult I haven’t heard before. The same can’t be said for the five year old in the row in front who is at their first game. Now call me old fashioned but it is hardly appropriate to throw obscenities around like hot snacks when there is an impressionable child nearby. Imagine if the child goes home and repeats the insult in front of their parents, or even their teachers and peers at school? They don’t know what it means (at least I hope not) but that won’t stop them repeating it.

All it takes is a little self-restraint. I know sport can be frustrating and can make even the most reserved person think a few unseemly things. But you know what? We just have to deal with it because it isn’t pleasant for anyone.

Pay Attention

This probably sounds like something unusual to say to someone at a sports event. Yet there are a select few ‘fans’ who seem to attend games for no apparent reason; it’s clearly not because of the sport because they’re never paying attention.

You could argue that if they paid for their ticket they can do what they want as long as they aren’t interfering with anyone else’s experience. And that’s a valid point but I can’t be the only one who gets annoyed when I see someone spending the entire length of a game tweeting or updating their Facebook statu—ironically it’s probably about how good the game is.

It is bad manners, especially if they start talking at crucially tense moments or asking inane questions constantly because they have no idea what’s going on. If you’re one of these people then I can only assume you don’t enjoy sport so don’t come. If you have to go for whatever reason then at least make the best of it and try to get into it. If you know someone who is like this then please don’t bring them!

The worst time for someone not to be paying attention at a game has to be in the parking lot (car park to us Brits) at the end. It is so frustrating when people aren’t looking at the queue in front of them so they don’t know when to go, when to stop or when to let someone else in. They just end up holding everyone up because they think they’re too important to have too. If you’re not sure how much this annoys me this video is only half how annoying I find people who don’t pay attention.

Eating and Drinking

The trick is not to buy something that you can’t eat tidily. Think of it this way; if you wouldn’t buy it whilst you were on a date don’t buy it a sports event. Granted you’re not romantically attached to your neighbouring spectators but it is polite.

Personally I don’t want to be able to tell at a glance what someone has eaten because it’s all over their face and shirt—looking like a walking sample menu is not manly. However, I can understand that when you go to a game you want to eat hot dogs, burgers and nachos; even though there is a more than small risk of ending up like the menu guy I described above. In that case I’d suggest bringing a spare shirt (only joking) or actually making use of the napkin you’re given with your food. When used these free pieces of paper help to prevent embarrassing spillages and food around the mouth and as such are invaluable to sports fans.

One last thing that fits into this category is alcohol. Most sports grounds sell alcohol to spectators and the temptation to drink too much, unintentionally, is very strong. Obviously, it isn’t manly to be drunk in public and so it should be avoided at all cost. So when drinking with your friends be careful not to underestimate how much it is affecting you.

When You’re Not at the Stadium

I’m sure some of you are sitting there thinking well I don’t go to see the action live. Well don’t you worry there are a still a few pieces of etiquette that shouldn’t go unobserved even if you aren’t physically at the game.

As I covered in my previous article in this etiquette series the barman is the most important person in any scenario involving a bar. So we’ll skip that this time and focus on how to behave with your fellow sports fans at the bar.

Here, as with most places, a bit of common courtesy goes a long way. Saying please, thank you and excuse me are all simple ways to make the game go smoothly. Before and after the game is also a great time to share a couple of stories with friends or fellow fans. They can be about anything really, from previous games you’ve seen or been to and even stories that your Dad used to tell you. When people share personal stories and memories with strangers whose only connection is their sports team helps to create a friendly atmosphere.

Just remember to take your cue from the mood in the bar; you don’t want to start telling a story loudly to a stranger when there is a tense finale and everyone in the bar is silent. That could lead to some dirty stares.

Moving away from the bar to a friend’s house most of the same rules apply. However, it’s a nice gesture to bring a six pack of beer or something for the grill in place of the round you’d buy at the bar.

If you’re in your house, then you can do what you want.

What rules would you add for the sports fan?


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Image credit: Tostie14/Flickr

About James Hansen

James is the founder, writer and man behind the magic at the Emporium of Manliness. A site dedicated to helping men become men in a light-hearted and self-deprecating tone. Follow him @EmporiumofMan and on Google+.


  1. There’s one you forgot: sitting down. You paid for the chair- essentially, you’ve rented it for the afternoon/evening- USE IT.

    Don’t get me wrong- I get it: There are often many occasions during a sporting event in which people get excited and jump up and cheer (or boo) and what not. And I’m all about that. But SIT. BACK. DOWN. Nothing I hate more than spending pretty decent coin on seats at a game and then have the numbnuts in front of us standing for three quarters or for six of nine innings or whatever. Especially when I’ve got my kids with me and they can’t see at all. And it’s so refreshing to politely ask someone to sit down and being told, in a voice nearly loud enough for the players on the field to hear, “FUCK YOU, DUDE!” or “SUCK MY DICK, BRAH!” or “I OUGHTA KICK YER ASS, BITCH!” or something similar. Holy moly, was that lady mean. 🙂

    But seriously, folks…

    Again, I get it- it’s virtually impossible to stay seated for an entire game. I know I couldn’t do it, especially in a close game. Nor would I even consider expecting anyone else to do so. But be friggin’ courteous of the people behind you and sit back down.

    • Hi Johann

      Thanks for your comment. I completely agree that people who don’t know when to sit down/stand up are incredibly annoying. Bit of an oversight not including that in the article I admit, but a worthy part of sports etiquette nonetheless!

      I’ve been fortunate in not having anyone sitting in front of me who was blocking my view because he was standing up. I did have a guy blocking my view because he was reading a newspaper though, crazy!

      – James

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