I spent about 10 days in the Twin Cities as part of the
annual summer journalism workshop there. One of the best parts of the non-work
experience was that for the first time in a million year, I happened to be in
town when the Twins had a home stand. Couple that with the fact that they were
playing my team (the Indians) and it was a great chance to catch some fun
The seats were sold out, but a bit of patience and the need
for only a single ticket got me a great seat along the first base line for about
$3 under face value. It was a beautiful day, something you never had to think
about in years past when the fine people of Minnesota understood that they
lived in Minnesota and put a ROOF over their playing field.
Best of all? It was dollar hot dog night at the stadium.
Yes, you could gorge yourself on stadium wieners for pocket change instead of
having to pawn a kidney for dinner.
Then again, maybe that’s not the best thing.A recent ESPN
report showed that stadiums across the country had critical violations in
health service codes. Nearly 30 percent of the stadiums had major health
violations at more than half of their concession stands. Rodent droppings, mold
in ice makers and people who were touching food with their bare hands were just
some of those violations.
An interview with an anonymous food service manager revealed
things that went undetected and yet were even more disturbing. He told stories
about finding pus-laden bandages in clam chowder and food that was rotting away
in a non-refrigerated area. Even worse, he talked about an incident where a guy
bled profusely into a pot of soup and just ladled the surface blood off and
stirred in the rest. The soup wasn’t served because the manager stepped in, but
the worker would have sent it along if he hadn’t been stopped.
The food service people ran away from this report like rats
into a stadium venue. However, one guy who is the chair of the group that
represents concession companies did pony up this gem:
“To say it’s a critical violation, it sends a pang of fear
in the public’s mind that they’re not being looked out for, and that’s not the
case,” said Richard Andersen, chairman of the Industry Affairs Council
with the International Association of Assembly Managers, which represents
sports stadium managers and concession companies. “These are moral people.
They’re trying to do the right thing.”
Sure, because when you think of people who sell $5 hot dogs,
$6 sodas and $4 popcorn in a monopolistic environment, you’re thinking, “There
is NO WAY these guys would try to crank out as much food as possible in the
shortest amount of time no matter what corners had to be cut.” Right? They’ve
got to be as compassionate and caring as a Catholic priest. Uh… OK, bad
When you go to a game, you eat the food because it’s part of
the experience and because you have few other options. Carry-in items have been
limited under the guise of safety, which is only partially the reason.
Increased rules against tailgating have limited when you can get there and what
you can do. So, unless you eat before you come, you’re stuck. And when you
bring a kid and the guy next to you has his child wolfing down a hot dog, it
seems a bit cruel to deny your kid that Americana pleasure.
This isn’t the only outdoor food activity that needs a hug.
The local kids selling brats out of the “brat fry” house in front of the Piggly
Wiggly always make me feel like a heel when I don’t buy. Then I see how the
kids are making the food and I know I’m right to pass on that greasy delicacy.
On occasion, I’ll give them the three bucks and say, “Just keep it. I’m not really
In Wisconsin, once the temperature reaches 49 degrees, we
start having outdoor festivals. The local clubs and school groups sell corn,
beef sandwiches and everything else to make a buck. I once opened a corn and
found little worms had been fried inside. For two bucks, I let that one go
politely and without a scene.
Food is one of those things we tend not to take seriously
until there’s a problem with it. I’ve rarely, if ever, seen anyone asking a
whole lot of questions of the counter help at Burger King or trying to check
out what they were eating at the county fair. If the “deep fried bacon wrapped
in chocolate” is any indication, we tend not to give a shit about long-term
And yet when a food-borne illness comes by and punches us in
the stomach, we suddenly wake up to reality. A few years back, The Missus and I
stopped by a McDonald’s drive through like we’d done thousands of times before.
We both ate the same thing and the next day we were incapacitated. Just like
the people in this story, we weren’t running with our stool samples to the
health department, so they couldn’t prove it was the food that got us. However,
it’s been almost five years and I still haven’t gone to a McDonald’s for as
much as a soda.
The minute I saw this report, I clicked on the map to see
what violations Target Field had received, thinking about those slightly pale
buck hot dogs.
No information available. The place was too new to have data
Perhaps ignorance is bliss.