At least not usually. These days you’re way more likely to buy your tickets online and get a paper printout instead of a traditional ticket. Paul Lukas, writing at The New Republic, is not a fan of this development. Partially because actual tickets look cool and, in their own way, are almost like little pieces of art. But also because of what they represent:
So the real cost of digital ticketing isn’t just the loss of nicely designed physical items. It’s also the loss of documentation, the loss of personal totems that serve as touchstones to past experiences. Of course, digital tickets are documented too, since every ticket purchase and turnstile scan ends up on a hard drive or server as more data to be mined. But that’s not the same as having an envelope full of stubs that you can pull out of the drawer whenever you like.
I understand that. As a fellow oldster I kinda miss tickets. Missed even more in this vein: LP album art. Yes, I know vinyl is making a comeback but not in anything approaching volume, and not for acts which might make bad album art, which was almost as fun as good album art.
But unlike Lukas, my missing tickets and things is merely a fleeting aesthetic bummer. I don’t feel like we’re short any means of documenting our experiences these days. Quite to the contrary. Paul has a blog. I do too and anyone can have one if they want one. Plus Facebook and Instagram. Plus Baseball-Reference.com has the box score, attendance and game time temperature of every game played in our lifetimes. If anything we have a surplus of memory-jogging remembrances of games we attend. Maybe you can’t put that in a drawer, but unlike Lukas, most people don’t keep good track of their ticket stubs and other totems. And given the vagaries of memory, the new manner of documentation is way more detailed and way more reliable.
I went to a Braves-Phillies game in Veteran’s Stadium around the Fourth of July in 1989. I remember being in the park and I have a snapshot of my brother, my cousin and me out in the right field stands but I can’t really remember what was going on when we took the picture. I long since lost the ticket stub. But I can go to Baseball-Reference.com and, ah … there it is. I found it because I remember it was a Sunday and John Smoltz pitched, but before I clicked that I had no memory of Lonnie Smith being the offensive hero of the game. My untrustworthy memory probably caused me to block out everything good Lonnie Smith did sometime around October 1991 …
Now think about games you’ve gone to in the past couple of years. You may have checked in at the ballpark on Facebook or Foursquare. If you were so inclined you could have all manner of pictures you captioned in real time. If you’re like me you may have tweeted funny things that happened during the game. You may have a scorebook. Even if you did nothing but sit back, drink beer and watch the game, you still have a comprehensive digital record of it by virtue of the work of online folk and MLB and everyone else keeping track of the game. While you don’t have that satisfying ticket stub any longer, if you wanted to document that game in a manner which helps preserve your memory of it you have more tools at your disposal than you ever did.
Which isn’t to say that old school tickets aren’t cool and that I don’t miss them. It’s just that like autographs and any number of other things, they’re not essential to our memories and experiences. And the things we have which serve their purpose today, however easily mocked as frivolous and disposable, are just as effective in that regard. Maybe even more so.