When I was a kid, my uncle john’s would take my brother and I to a Yankees, Met's, or Philadelphia Phillie's game. Now that I think about it, we had to have been really young and were avid players and baseball card collectors. I really didn’t care much for the cards, as I wanted the bubble gum. We still joke about how my mom threw mine out when I went to college. It seems funny now, particularly with the inflated, irrational and ridiculous valuations people put on sports memorabilia. If they only saw went on behind the scenes, I wager the market would crash in spectacular fashion.
I wish my one uncle lived a bit longer than his 28 years on this planet. We could have had a really interesting food alliance. We both loved pizza loaded with extra cheese and with hot dogs, I can only guess whatever money he had, we would eat our fill of Yankee stadium boiled hot dogs with mustard from the roving venders. Sure, they were inexpensive, cheap, but inside the old stadium, where players would actually talk to fans and sign autographs “free” of charge. It brought the connection of creating a fan and player together that was something of a "free will choice" versus one having to pay for anything bolted and not-bolted down that exists today.
How far have we gone? Since those days? I think it was in the Barry bonds era of him smacking home runs with the frequency that he ingested Balco products. I had a friend visiting in Sausalito who wanted to see a game. I got tickets and went, sat down, was surprised at how nice the seats were and then a lady walked up and asked me what food I wanted. She had her little portable electronic gizmo and I said, “Can I have a hot dog?”
She looked at me a bit odd, “sir, we have the deluxe -so-giant-super-duper-chili-cheese-and-stuff-dog, or you can have sushi, and (she rambled off a series of cuisine choices restaurants would be proud of – sort of like me rambling off the name of a hot dog description I made up for creative liberty emotional effect. Marketing!)
“I am sorry ma’am, I am from New York, and I haven’t been to a major league game since I was a kid at Yankee stadium. Is it possible just to get an "old school" hot dog with mustard, maybe some sauerkraut?”
She smiled, oblivious to old school baseball and said, “Sir, we have the deluxe-sf-super-duper-chili-cheese-and-stuff-dog. It is quite delicious!”
It was impossible to get a normal hot dog that day. Perhaps technology was too far advanced that one could NOT take off all the condiments and addition to what was the hotdog without crashing the routers?
I ended up having a waitress bring me a deluxe-sf-giant-super-duper-chili-cheese-and-stuff-dog right to my seat while I watched hormonally enhanced men who could have been American football players smacking balls out of a stadium into the ocean.
Call me simple, I just wanted a simple hot dog, a cola, and ideally I could wash it down with the old school sweet treat of cracker jacks. The later i couldn’t get because someone with food allergies probably filed a lawsuit?
Instead, to sit in a new stadium, watch the best thoroughbred performance enhanced athletes making millions of dollars to play a sport – it was easily a few hundred dollars for what they describe as “fun.”
Today, you know what fun is for me? One day I was traveling near Geneva, Illinois and there was a sport complex near my hotel and I went and got a ticket to the Kane county cougars minor league baseball team. I don’t know if I even paid $8 for a ticket that had the ability for me to lean over the third base line while eating all the hotdogs and sausages i could ingest and still not match the cost of one MLB ticket.
What transpired that night, was a simplicity of "fun" among people all out to simply enjoy watching a sporting event. no hype. no drama. just good old all-american fun. perhaps after doing shows for work, finding something requiring no hype or spectacle was enjoyable?
Since that game and i get stuck with an idea, I find a minor league team, buy discounted tickets on craigslist and take a sketch book and work on ideas while watching the crowd. They aren’t the upscale or sophisticated folks who want to be seen that you get at the major league level, but they are fans that haven’t forgotten what it is like to be a fan. Through thick or thin, through a myriad of free agent trades, they simply root on their team, win or lose.
You can get the simple American ballpark hot dog at any of the aforementioned minor league stadiums and watch the players working with the dream to get to the majors, where the reality and accolades of that level have gotten completely out of whack with the reality of the value it has on our actual society. Unless, that is, you consider making our waistlines even larger with the all you can buffets served in stadiums luxury suites "good."
I wonder how many little kids who truly love sports will never step foot inside a stadium to see a game. Not because they don’t want to, but their parents can’t afford it?