,The Covid-19 pandemic is encouraging the trend for digital game tickets because mobile ticketing reduces hand-to-hand contact between fans and stadium workers, and can permit contact tracing based on seat locations. — Getty Images/AFP
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I spent a recent vacation in the Bay Area and parts north, being a sports fan again. The plan was to go to three baseball games, a soccer game and an afternoon of horse racing during a six-day trip. Before long, five events in six days felt crazy.
So I added a sixth event, a Class A game in San Jose between Dodgers and Giants farm clubs.
Being in the stands again, after a pandemic break, was a familiar pleasure.
But getting there was different.
Many fans who have been getting back in the game this year know the feeling of being plunged into the world of electronic ticketing.
"It's become ubiquitous," Tom Andrus, chief operating officer of the digital ticketing platform AXS, said recently of sports' switch away from paper tickets.
Teams, leagues and other sports promoters call it mobile ticketing, but a better name would be ticketless ticketing.
Attending six events on summer vacation meant using six apps or websites to buy tickets, and keeping a smartphone charged to display the tickets to scanners at the gates.
At a Giants game in San Francisco, I had trouble transferring a ticket to a college friend electronically. He couldn't make it appear on his iPhone screen. And this is no clueless Luddite — he works in Silicon Valley.
At the horse track in Pleasanton, you'd expect to walk up and buy admission. But even in that countrified setting, tickets had to be ordered online. An employee at the turnstile had her teenage son there to show older racegoers how.
At the races, concession stand pizza was supposed to be ordered through an app. Except the app wouldn't take my credit card. Two employees tried but couldn't make it work.
"You know," the man at the pizza counter said after 10 minutes of this, "you could just hand me your credit card."
Let's hope things run smoother Saturday night for the first fans to attend a pro football game in Southern California since 2019.
With few exceptions, people going to the Chargers-Rams preseason game at SoFi Stadium will purchase tickets online and download them into their smartphones, which will be scanned at entry.
"Be sure to get your phone all set up!" Sam Lagana, the Rams' booming public address announcer, told fans attending a recent training camp practice at UC Irvine. "Get your QR codes ready to go, so you can enjoy a spectacular game!"
The NFL has mandated the use of mobile ticketing for all seats in 2021. This means we've seen the last of the perforated ticket stubs that fans saved as mementos. Even PDF printouts are historical relics.
Some worry that the move to mobile will alienate elderly and low-income fans, who are less likely to own smartphones.