How to (pretend to) be the model fan

Illustration by Kagan McLeod

There’s an etiquette to sitting in the stands at a baseball game. We’ve got you covered.

ESPN.com has published a compilation of the unwritten rules of baseball, which include:

—Stop stealing bases when your team is up big.
—Don’t bunt to break up a no-hitter.
—Mike Moustakas is permitted only one base hit per lunar cycle.

But only this column has a definitive list of the unwritten rules of attending a baseball game.

Don’t arrive late. But when you do arrive late, make sure you loudly explain the reason for your delay to the people around you. Stupid traffic/boss/apocalyptic robot uprising!

Feign enjoyment of the pitchers’ duel. No one actually wants to see a pitchers’ duel because, hooray, 14 consecutive groundouts! But pretending to enjoy it imbues you with the hipster depth of one who appreciates events on a more sophisticated level. It’s pretty much the same philosophy that motivates people to pretend to enjoy Bob Dylan, dark chocolate and winter.

When a big moment in the game occurs while you’re looking at your phone, pretend you weren’t looking at your phone. Were you Instagramming a snapshot of your cheeseburger when Jose Bautista clubbed that double into the gap? Of course you were. We all were. But that’s no reason not to hoot and exchange high-fives with your equally confused seatmates. I’m not saying a lot of fans stare into their phones all game long, but MLB should really change its slogan to: “Wait, what just happened?”

Do not fall asleep with your head on the shoulder of the stranger sitting next to you. Let’s be clear: It is a baseball game, so you will probably doze off. After all, we live in a fast-paced, hyper-stimulating world, and baseball combines the raw thrill of infrequent action with the formidable tandem of beer and sunstroke. But it’s good manners to keep your head upright. If you need lessons, call my dad. I grew up watching him fall asleep to various sports on TV (golf: televised NyQuil), and his head never once tilted more than a few degrees to either side. As a bonus, he can also teach you how to make the “Me? I wasn’t asleep!” face. It involves a lot of blinking.

Do not bring your mitt if you are over the age of 11. A grown man with a glove at a ballpark is a more pity-inducing sight than a dog with one of those cones around his neck.

Heckle only if you’re creative. No worse fate can befall a baseball spectator than to be stuck in front of a loudmouth whose arsenal of quips consists in its entirety of: “Hey , you suck!” Razzing the opposing team is as much a part of baseball as manicured infields and hilarious explanations for “accidental” steroid ingestion, but you’ve got to have a solid set of material. Maybe work some minor-league parks before trying to make the Show.

Males are permitted to remove their shirts only if they are perfectly fit or comically chubby, thus making clear the fact that the shirt has been removed ironically. Ideally, a chubby guy should also have something drawn on his belly, like a letter or a number or a map to the nearest Burger King.

Refrain from calling your friends, telling them you’re on TV and then waving at them from behind home plate. I’ll be the one to break it to you: Not even your friends like you enough to care. How exactly do you think they’re going to react to this information? “OHMIGOD PHIL IS SLIGHTLY VISIBLE ON CHANNEL 386!!!”

Do not steal a home-run ball from a kid (until the TV cameras have cut away). Snatch that ball away immediately and you’re in for years of infamy on YouTube as “Baseball Moron Makes Child Cry.” Play it cool. Wait until play resumes. Then say, “Hey kid, can I just see that ball for a minute?” And that’s when you run away into the night.

This story originally appeared in Sportsnet magazine. Subscribe here.

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