Nothing illustrates the difference between America and Americana than the song "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." Americana is buying peanuts and Cracker Jack (kind of redundant since there already are peanuts in that plastic bag of `Jacks), while America knows that those concessions cost roughly $84 at any major-league ballpark and, besides, why would you want a handful of caramel-coated popcorn when you could have a StrasBurger instead?
This season, the Washington Nationals have unleashed the StrasBurger into their Red Porch restaurant, an eight-pound, special sauce-coated meatbeast that is bigger than most newborn infants and, much like giving birth, should probably come with a complimentary epidural.
Even though the real-life Stephen Strasburg carded his first spring training win Sunday, The StrasBurger (three meats, four vegetables, one bun) has gotten more virtual ink than its namesake pitcher (five starts, 4.12 ERA, 14 SO).
But maybe that's fitting. America's former favorite pastime has been overshadowed by our new favorite pastime - overeating. What's more American than consuming a burger so big you could claim it as a dependent? And there's no better way to pass the crown from old to new than with a cardboard version from Burger King in the stadium concourse.
Baseball is the perfect pairing for the new menu items announced in the past couple of weeks, the kind of plate-fillers that would make the Man vs. Food guys start mainlining Lipitor.
In the past two weeks, we've been warned about the StrasBurger (which one D.C.-area dietician estimated at between 8,000 and 10,000 calories) and the Texas Rangers' new `Boomstick', a $26, one-pound hot dog that team president Nolan Ryan described as "a tremendous weiner," a comment that I'm going to skip right over because I am trying SO INSANELY HARD to be a grown-up.
The Daily Meal compiled a slideshow of some of the most terrifying ballpark offerings, with pictures that look like they're straight out of Paula Deen's erotica collection. Cleveland has a chicken and waffle sandwich, there's a pulled pork parfait in Milwaukee and Miami is introducing a helmet full of nachos, which I assume is served in size small, medium or Barry Bonds.
Not to be outdone, minor-league teams are also putting together oversized heart-stoppers. The Lake County Captains, a Class A Cleveland Indians affiliate, will be serving a three-pound, 4,000-calorie fish sandwich, a pile of square fish and clam strips called the Moby Dick that (and I know you're curious) weighs more than two copies of the Penguin Classics paperback version of the book itself.
Remember Bill Veeck, the team owner turned promo genius who gave us everything from exploding scoreboards to Disco Demolition night to little person Eddie Gaedel's one at bat (Fun Fact: At 46" tall, Gaedel was roughly the size of two Boomstick buns and weighed in just over 8 StrasBurgers).
Veeck knew how to put backsides in ballpark seats and so do the PR departments who design and promote novelty foods, the ones people will attempt to eat for the story, for the Facebook pictures or for the chance to have "Boomstick" listed in their obituaries. MLB (and MiLB) knows we'll eat this stuff up, whether it's by getting outraged by the excesses or intrigued enough to order one.
To me (and, most likely, to Veeck) the disappointing part is that the game itself isn't enough to get people to the stadium anymore, not without offering a side of fries, a pile of pickles and a liberal coating of secret sauce. Who wants to watch Mark Hamburger when they could have an oversized hot dog instead? Americana loses every time.
Now could you pass me a bag of Cracker Jacks? I think they'd be great on a StrasBurger.
Jelisa Castrodale has learned a lot about life by making a mess of her own. Read more at jelisacastrodale.com , follow her on twitter at twitter.com/gordonshumway, or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org