A Patriotic Ode to the Hot Dog

Yesterday, July 4th, the United States of America celebrated the 245th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence from British rule, and the first anniversary of the declaring independence from COVID-19 with coast-to-coast fireworks and mask less and social distance free celebrations galore as a weary nation partied like it was 2019.

While time will tell whether declaring independence from COVID-19 was premature, one cannot argue that we are not in a better position this year than we were at the time a year ago.

The US celebrated the 245th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence from British rule, and the first anniversary of the declaring independence from COVID-19 with coast-to-coast fireworks as a weary nation partied like it was 2019.
Photo R. Anderson

In addition to fireworks, another truly American Fourth of July tradition is a celebration of gluttony in the form of the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest.

Each year competitive eaters descend upon Coney Island, New York and stuff their faces with as many hot dogs and buns as they can while the world watches on ESPN.

When all of the bun crumbs settled Joey Chestnut, the world record holder with 76 hot dogs and buns consumed, earned his 14th Mustard Belt title in 16 years.

While part of me refuses to accept Joey Chestnut as my hot dog champion ever since the questionable dealings that led to the ousting of Takeru Kobayashi in 2010, I fall well short of driving around town with a “Joey is not my Champion” flag waving from a pickup truck.

In addition to fireworks, another truly American Fourth of July tradition is a celebration of gluttony in the form of the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest.
Photo R. Anderson

For starters all of the eligible hot dogs and buns were counted in a free and fair hot dog contest, and second, I don’t own a pickup truck or a flag.

So, while each July 4th I pour a little deli mustard out for Kobayashi, I find no need for a recount from the Cyber Buns.

But I digress, this is not a column about Chestnut and Kobayashi. This is not even a column about the ways Americans flaunt their abundance of riches on the world stage while many other nations beg for life saving vaccines that a wide swath of Americans refuse to take.

Instead, this is a column about my love of eating hot dogs at the Ballpark. Over the course of my life, I have eaten my fair share of dogs from coast to coast. I cannot wait until I return to a Ballpark to consume another cased meat treat.

It is always best to not dig too deeply inside the casing of the hot dog. While I try to eat healthier hot dogs, at some point one has to realize that one does not eat a hot dog as part of a health and wellness plan.

Nope, hot dogs, like America at the moment, are a hot mess full of competing ideas and doctrines and various parts of animals, yet somehow when they are combined together and boiled, fried or grilled the various parts of the hot dog make culinary magic.

Hot dogs, like America at the moment, are a hot mess full of competing ideas and doctrines and various parts of animals, yet somehow when they are combined together and boiled, fried or grilled the various parts of the hot dog make culinary magic.
Photo R. Anderson

Perhaps if more people thought of America like a hot dog there would be less divisions along party lines. I mean if fans of the San Francisco Giants can eat a Dodger Dog in the Ballpark of their most hated rival Los Angeles Dodgers, there really is hope for the rest of society to bond over a coney, or as some people prefer to call them a wiener.

Major League Eating (MLE), has sanctioned the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest since 1997 and while I will never be a member of that sanctioning body, I am nonetheless a Major League eater. At least a Major League Baseball eater.

In addition to eating hot dogs at dozens of Minor League Baseball and Spring Training Ballparks through the years, I have consumed hot dogs at seven MLB Ballparks.

My first professional Ballpark hot dog was an Esskay hot dog at Memorial Stadium for a Baltimore Orioles versus Philadelphia Phillies game. In hindsight, it is fitting that my Ballpark hot dog tradition would start watching a game from the city where the Declaration of Independence was signed.

As a side note, Esskay hotdogs are so popular in Birdland that they are shipped down from Maryland to the Orioles Spring Training ballpark in Florida each year lest the Orioles fans be forced to consume a different type of hot dog.

The Dodger Dog is such a big deal in Los Angeles that Dodger Stadium features statues of a hot dog mascot.
Photo R. Anderson

My other MLB hot dogs were consumed at the home Ballparks of the Rays, Astros, Rangers, Rockies, Angels and Dodgers.

It was during trips to Dodger Stadium that I truly experienced the elevated Ballpark hot dog experience in the form of the famous Dodger Dog.

The Dodger Dog is such a big deal in Los Angeles that Dodger Stadium features statues of a hot dog mascot. The Dodger Dog is available steamed, grilled, or fried. And starting in 2021, a plant-based Dodger Dog was even added to the lineup.

Of course, all is not copasetic in the house that Vin Scully built as the long-time meat packing supplier of the Dodger Dog did not have their contract renewed after the 2019 season.

That means that for the first time in nearly 50 years the Dodger Dog will not taste the same. At least the Dodgers got a World Series title in 2020 to soften the blow of losing the Farmer John Dodger Dog.

Los Angeles Dodgers fans consumed 2.7 million hot dogs in 2019. While I did not contribute to the 2019 numbers, I did eat my fair share of Dodger Dogs during the 2018 season. Sometimes I even ate my Dodger Dog with a fork and knife on a real plate.
Photo R. Anderson

I am not alone in my love of hot dogs. According to hot-dog.org Americans spent more than $7.68 Billion on hot dogs and sausages in US supermarkets in 2020.

Los Angeles was tops on the hot dog and sausage consumption scale, which kind of blows SoCal’s rep of being all about avocado toast and juice cleanses.

Going back to hot-dog.org one learns that Los Angeles residents consume about 30 million pounds of hot dogs annually. Los Angeles Dodgers fans consumed 2.7 million hot dogs in 2019. Across the major leagues, fans enjoyed 18.3 million hot dogs during the 2019 season.

My memory is a bit foggy from the nitrates to know how many of those 18.3 million hotdogs I consumed in 2019.

While I did not spend yesterday in a Ballpark, I went to the local hot dog shop and selected a New York dog, a polish sausage, a Chicago dog, and two chili cheese coneys to continue my dog on the Fourth of July tradition.
Photo R. Anderson

While I did not spend yesterday in a Ballpark, I went to the local hot dog shop and selected a New York dog, a polish sausage, a Chicago dog, and two chili cheese coneys to continue my dog on the Fourth of July tradition.

The hot dogs were tasty but they definitely had me yearning for the Ballpark experience. I don’t know when I will see a Ballgame in person again but know that when I do a hot dog will be involved. I am hoping to visit a favorite Ballpark in September. Until then, my occasional hot dog cravings will be satisfied through drive thru windows.

During a trip to Denver’s Coors Field, I became a member of the Mile High Hot Dog Club during a game between the Rockies and Marlins. That’s a thing right?
Photo R. Anderson

I doubt the founding fathers had hot dogs and baseball diamonds in mind when they decided to break away from the British in 1776, but I am certainly glad that they did declare independence to allow such things to occur in the centuries that followed.

Otherwise, activities today might be filled with watching cricket and shouting “pip, pip” while sipping Earl Grey tea, hot.

Not that there is anything wrong with cricket or Earl Grey tea mind you.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all this talk about hot dogs is making me hungry.

Copyright 2021 R. Anderson

Pondering What My Dream Ballpark Would Look Like

The other day I was asked to describe what my dream Ballpark would consist of, if money were no object, and I could include anything that I wanted inside it.

I have always hated questions like that. Not because I do not have a vivid imagination; I can dream big along with the rest of them. No, I hate questions like that because it usually involves a scenario where one ignores reality and instead focus on a utopian vision of what could be, without first providing a plan to address what is.

Dodger Stadium is the third oldest MLB Ballpark. Instead of getting replaced for something shiner, it is undergoing renovations to ensure that the view from the ravine remains intact. If only they could do something about the drive to the Ballpark.
Photo R. Anderson

Too often Ballparks are torn down, or abandoned in place in the prime of their useful life because an owner wants to add some new luxury boxes, or other revenue generating avenues, instead of trying to make the Ballpark they were dealt with better.

That is not to say that money should not be spent to maintain Ballparks. Money will always be an object, but just throwing money at a situation does not make it better, since the root cause of the problem is always there just below the surface.

Ballparks, like life, are messy. They involve many moving parts and elements. Each element is fine by itself, but when they are joined together for a single purpose, they are even greater.

Take for example a hot dog. Hot dogs are tasty just about anywhere, and are one of my guilty food pleasures. But a hot dog inside a Ballpark is always just a bit more enjoyable.

Over the past five years I have had the privilege of eating many Dodger Dogs. You know if you are going to erect a statue to the dog, it must be good.
Photo R. Anderson

So, in my dream Ballpark scenario, hot dogs would be affordable for everyone, regardless of whether they were rooting for, or against, the home team. And of course the condiments to put on the hot dog would include everything one could think of.

Of course, fans would need a safe place to eat that hot dog. So, in my dream Ballpark every seat would include a folding airline style seat tray.

Seriously, how has no one ever thought of this? Ballpark seats are getting about as small as airline seats, and the average time of a game and flights are pretty similar. So why not include a tray for eating?

The seat back tray tables would serve another purpose besides providing a flat surface to eat on and keep score on. Much like the tray table on an airplane deters people in the window seat from crawling over the other two people in the row to form a line at the lavatory, the Ballpark trays would force people to actually sit and watch the game.

Baseball has parts that are hard to watch, and people like shiny objects and can be easily distracted. But you came to a Ballpark to watch a game, so sit down and watch the game until the captain turns off the fasten seat-belt sign.

One of my biggest pet peeves at the Ballpark is people who talk the entire game and pay very little attention to what is going on between the foul poles.

I highly recommend the King’s Hawaiian Dodger Dog.
Photo R. Anderson

Inside the confines of my dream Ballpark it would be well known that while sports can provide a distraction for a few hours, along with tasty, reasonably priced hot dogs, they cannot replace the need for real dialog around the water cooler outside of the Ballpark on a variety of issues gripping the world.

From a sports perspective, many people dig in their heels and consider their team to be the best, and despise people who wear a different uniform than their beloved home team. This attitude can be tricky to maintain when someone’s favorite player gets traded to one of those dreaded other teams. Does one suddenly turn on the player that they cheered for until they grew hoarse just because, through no fault of their own, they were sent to another team? Or, do they remember the good times and realize that we are more than the uniforms we wear?

So, in my dream Ballpark, all of the fans would be given special glasses that made all of the uniforms on the field look the same. This way, people can just enjoy the game without worrying about who is wearing what uniform, and whether they hate that player just because they wear a uniform different from their own. The glasses would also cut down on the heckling and harassing of fans of other teams inside the Ballpark since all of the clothes in the stands would also be the same color through the lenses.

In my dream Ballpark, all of the fans would be given special glasses that made all of the uniforms on the field look the same. This way, people can just enjoy the game without worrying about who is wearing what uniform, and whether they hate that player just because they wear a uniform different from their own.
Photo R. Anderson

By seeing the game through the same colored lens, the man-made differences and barriers disappear and suddenly everyone is the same and can enjoy the ball game together. If only the glasses were able to work outside of the Ballpark as well.

Even if baseball resumes this year, it is going to be awhile before people are back inside Ballparks. So, my recommendation is that now would be a good time to listen to your neighbor and see what the world looks like from their perspective, even without the special Ballpark glasses. Really take the time to listen to them, from a social distance due to COVID-19 perspective, but not from a social distance from an empathy point of view.

Throughout my career I have been fortunate to interview many people from all walks of life, and can safely say that from my experience we are all way more similar than we are different when one takes the time to really listen.

Over the past few months, I have been thinking a lot about the Native American story of the two wolves. There are several variations of the story. My favorite version is noted below.

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Pondering about dream Ballparks is certainly a distraction from the current state of the world, but deciding which wolf to feed is a much better use of one’s time and effort. May each of us always strive to feed the right wolf as we await the return of some semblance of normalcy, while also knowing that we have much work to do on numerous fronts when the world reopens.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a wolf to feed. I wonder if he likes hot dogs.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson