Sports fans make the true concessions at the concessions
Various fans in Seattle on Monday went through the range of emotions in the final moments of a three-hour game: the familiar nausea, the hand-wringing, and probably a little bit of the cold sweats. This, however, had nothing to do with the team one was rooting for nor was it the product of any rules misinterpretations… at least far as the play on the field.
Watching a sporting event live often includes witnessing the surreal, the awe-inspiring, and being able to come within arm’s reach of some of the most expensive commodities on the planet. There is usually some stomach churning and thrown in a bout of anxiety. Of course, I am talking about the concession stands at your local sports venue.
If there is one area where an American sports fan can truly be labeled an expert, it is the one that encompasses sitting on the posterior while watching sports. The energy levels remain low and the calorie deficits even lower. What’s more, it is one of the pleasing aspects of sports where perspiration accompanies actual weight gain.
Anyone who has ever walked into an arena has truly been exposed to the blood (medium-rare), sweat (having to hustle before those lines get long), and tears (having to take out a second mortgage to afford ballpark link sausage) of sports fandom. A longtime fixture at sporting events is the Goodyear blimp. However, another less equally appealing fixture are the low-flying zeppelins fueled by a nearly-lethal combination of the Pacific Ocean’s worth of salt, mechanically separated food stuffs, corn syrup, and whatever the illegal drug they use in Gobstoppers.
Some of my earliest memories of going to the stadium as a little tike involved the miasma of a Weingarten that time and, perhaps the Germans, forgot along with the requisite dose of garlic that would keep Nosferatu safely entombed for the rest of eternity. Throw in a roast “beef” sandwich from the Forum, a Cool-a-Coo from Dodger Stadium, and an infarction from the Coliseum, and you have the makings of a true Murderer’s Row.
Sure, everyone knows about the modern encumberances experienced upon walking through the gates of a sports stadium in the modern era. Paying a Biblical number in currency for a bottle of water from a mythical spring seems almost standard. Unfurling a Lincoln or two for a tube-shaped piece of meat made from an animal long ago extinct may keep Abe honest, or at least leave him with that stern expression on his face for a little longer. Nachos with a cheese sauce that could double as Spackle, or French fries that have a half-life that could rival plutonium, are seen in venues around the country.
Minutes — sometimes hours — of one’s life are spent standing in line for these sometimes-edible staples while feats of a calorie-burning nature are being accomplished on the playing surface out of view. It is apparently part of the game-day experience. The indescribable. The incomprehensible. The indigestion.
To make matters worse, an ESPN report in 2009 showed that about 28 percent of arenas in North America had half of their concessions written up for some serious health violation (as if there were any other kind?). The next foul, turnover, or dump-off may not necessarily be lurking on the field but lingering somewhere in the stands. Perhaps an aisle seat would be prudent.
It’s not as if the fans aren’t the demanding sort when it comes to their stadium sustenance. A while back, Dodger Stadium concession stands tried to surreptitiously change the team’s famed Dodger Dog (to say nothing of the 9 Dodger dogs on the field in September) from the traditional grilled version to a steamed alternative. That went over about as well as my stand-up comedy career. The fans rebelled — think the French circa 1789 — and the change back was made.
Arizona’s Chase Field features a hot dog wrapped in bacon, accompanied with cheese, pinto beans, mayonnaise, and a last will and testament. The Gateway Grizzlies, an Illinois-based minor league baseball team, has what can best be described as an edible version of Syndrome X: a bacon cheeseburger served on a bun made from a Krispy Kreme donut. If they were to serve something like this in nearby Chicago, they would have to change the nickname of the metropolis to Break Windy City.
Another great American sports institution is the All-You-Can-Eat seats located in numerous venues across this once-svelte land of ours. Everything from chili dogs to baked potatoes are served, a great option for a cheap date, seeing as the other party probably won’t stick around long. At least that frees up an extra seat to hold your seconds.
From fish tacos in San Diego to garlic fries in the Bay Area, barbecue in the Midwest and cheesesteaks in Philly, the concessionary miasma at your local sports arena helps to add a lot charm and a slight burning sensation in your duodenum. Let the athletes exert the effort. For the rest of us, the digestive system will just have to give 110%.