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

Americans to Celebrate Independence in the Midst of COVID-19 Pandemic

Oh, say can you see what day it is?

Days have held little meaning during the global COVID-19 pandemic where cases of infection in America rise like a purple mountain majesty above the fruited plains. One day can just roll into the next like a mighty wave crashing on a sandy shore.

Tomorrow will be like many of the previous days where the number of people infected with COVID-19 will reach historic levels. Tomorrow is also the Fourth of July, which is a day set aside to celebrate America’s independence from the occupying British forces.

With a roaring declaration on July 4, 1776 proclaiming independence, the American founding fathers set in motion many of the freedoms and truths that we hold self-evident to this very day.

That independence from British rule established principles regarding life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Of course, it is self-evident to many people that the amount of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness afforded to Americans often is dependent on the color of one’s skin, and is not in keeping with the stance that all men are created equal.

Each year on July 4th the skies over America are filled with fireworks in celebration of independence.
Photo R. Anderson

The United States is fighting battles on many fronts as we prepare to celebrate the 244th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

There is a COVID-19 pandemic that has killed over 129,000 Americans, as well as calls for social justice and reform as society seeks to get closer to reaching that all men and women are created equal mantra.

There are certain times in the course of human events that will be looked back upon as tipping points within history. The key is to make sure that the tipping point improves the lives of all concerned and is not a tipping point back to ideals of hatred, and exclusion.

It is ironic then that on the weekend that Americans celebrate declaring their independence from British rule, that the British government would declare their independence from visitors from the United States. The action was taken based on the uncontrolled collision of a wildfire and a dumpster fire that has become the American response to COVID-19.

Great Brittan joined the European Union in adding the United States to their lists of banned countries to receive travelers from. The border between the United States and fellow former British colony Canada is also closed to all but essential travel.

Let that sink in for a minute. The cases of COVID-19 are so out of control that some of our biggest allies are saying, “you know what America, we really don’t want to see you anymore. I mean I could lie and say that it is not you, it is me, but who are we kidding? It is totally you.”

It can be jarring to think that the American freedom of traveling anywhere we want, and talking extra loudly to locals has been taken away. I mean everyone knows that talking really loud removes all language barriers, right? (Just to be clear, talking loudly does not remove all language barriers and really just makes you look like a tourist.)

In years past, I would spend July 4th watching baseball and fireworks. This year thanks to COVID-19 I will likely do neither activity.
Photo R. Anderson

In years past, I would spend July 4th watching baseball and fireworks. This year I will likely do neither activity.

Despite the best efforts of Major League Baseball to announce their presence with authority by returning to action on July 4th weekend, that return has been pushed back to no earlier than the end of July. Additionally, any fireworks shows that are being done responsibly, will be done without people in attendance.

While COVID-19 has cancelled many typical July 4th traditions, one all-American tradition of gluttonous excess has managed to plow ahead like an endless all you can eat buffet. I am of course talking about the Nathan’s Famous July Fourth International Hot Dog Eating Championship held each year on Coney Island.

While COVID-19 has cancelled many typical July 4th traditions, one all-American tradition of gluttonous excess has managed to plow ahead like an endless all you can eat buffet. I am of course talking about the Nathan’s Famous July Fourth International Hot Dog Eating Championship held each year on Coney Island. Photo R. Anderson

The ESPN televised salute to binge eating will be held this year without fans cheering on the competitors. But have no fear the hot dogs and buns dipped in water will still be broadcast into living rooms around the globe.

We don’t have baseball, or in person fireworks this year, but thanks to the patron saints of ESPN we have hot dogs.

With a weekend dedicated to declaring and exercising freedom, I know there is a temptation for people to go out and party like it is 2019. You know, that year before the COVID-19 virus reached our shores and shut things down. But, the responsible thing to do is to stay home and stay safe.

The numbers of COVID-19 cases are already out of control based on people celebrating Memorial Day weekend in a non-socially distanced fashion. Doing the same for July Fourth is likely to break the health care system and lead to even more deaths and needless suffering.

That is not alarmist talk, or anti freedom talk. That is scientific fact. Of course, with less science being taught in schools, the value of science seems to be floundering among certain population segments. For the record, the world is round not flat, and vaccines prevent diseases and are not part of some global conspiracy.

While we are stating facts, it should be noted that the founding fathers, like all men and women before and after them, were not perfect. They had their faults, and they made mistakes in judgement from time to time. But they gave us a foundation to build on as we continue this great experiment in democracy.

Now is the time to buckle down, and show that because we value the freedoms that we have, we are willing to sacrifice some comfort for the greater good.

Were it not for the Founding Fathers declaring independence from British rule so long ago, we would likely drink way more hot tea and enjoy sports such as cricket instead of the good old American Pastime of baseball. Photo R. Anderson

If the Revolutionary War had not been fought and won by George Washington’s Continental Army, it could be argued that there would be worse things than being citizens of a British colony.

I enjoy British food and television programs. I love to visit Canada. So, it is possible that it would not be that bad to be British had the Revolutionary War turned out differently.

But fast forward to the middle of the 20th Century, and consider the role that the greatest generation played in defeating the Nazis and the fascists in World War II, and you can see how sacrificing for the greater good is the right thing to do.

If members of the Greatest Generation refused to do their part, the world would likely look entirely different right now.

While no one is asking anyone to go out and build tanks, wearing a mask and socially distancing is just as important of an act of sacrifice as the ones demonstrated by the very generation of people who are now dying at alarming rates from COVID-19.

Freedom and independence are not a free pass to infringe on the rights of others. Wearing a mask to protect others does not make someone less free.

As a society we need to get past this politicization of COVID-19, and all of the other issues that are dividing us as a country, and once again become that one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

That means caring equally for the people who look different from us, and yes even caring for the people who vote differently from us.

COVID-19 is not asking people who they voted for before deciding who it infects. Additionally, who someone wants to vote for should not be driving how they respond to protecting themselves from the virus.

For those needing a refresher the entirety of the Declaration of Independence can be read here compliments of the National Archives.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some Nathan’s hotdogs to eat.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson