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In the United States and Canada, the nosebleed section (or nosebleed seats) are those seats of a public arena, usually an athletic stadium or gymnasium, that are highest and, usually, farthest from the desired activity. A common tongue-in-cheek reference to having seats at the upper tiers of a stadium is "sitting in the nosebleed section" or "nosebleed seats". The reference alludes to the propensity for nasal hemorrhage at high altitudes, usually owing to lower barometric pressure.
The origin of the expression may have been the 1970s television series Happy Days. In a particular episode, Richie Cunningham (played by Ron Howard) played host to a rock and roll band (contemporary 1950s era), Johnny Fish and the Fins. The band needed a secret place to stay, and Richie was friends with one of the band members. The only problem was, he wasn't allowed to tell anybody. Richie took a lot of flak from his friends and his girlfriend but kept his friend's confidence intact. Toward the end of the episode, Richie and all his friends got to go to the JF&F concert, but the tickets were for seats way up top. Fonzie (played by Henry Winkler) uttered the words, "I'm gettin' a nosebleed up here". This seems to be the first documented popular use associating "nosebleed" with the way-up-high cheap seats at a spectator event.
In popular culture
Tom Petty's song "Money Becomes King" refers to a performer's original fans having to sit "way up in the nosebleeds".
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