Tuesday, May 27, 2008

All for Nothing, Nothing for All

A few weeks ago, there was much behind the scenes discussion among contributors to this site about attending the Minnesota Twins "All You Can Eat" promotion. Inexhaustible quantities of hot dogs, peanuts, popcorn, nachos and non-alcoholic beverages for one low, low price. Needless to say, there are those among us for whom the siren call of something for nothing is irresistible.

As a long time aficionado of Dollar Hot Dog Night, I admit I was intrigued. But my experience with that discount wiener promotion has taught me some valuable lessons. Primarily, that the notion of inexhaustible supply is an illusion. The dynamics of security and market demand constrict how much you can actually eat.

First, the Twins dictate that you can only get two hot dogs per trip through the concession line. (A prudent decision, based on Sadr City-like civil insurrection when distribution was unlimited).

Second, demand is so great that the lines to get the dollar hot dogs are very, very long. In practical terms, this limits those who actually want to watch the game to maybe two trips through the line and four hot dogs. True, that should be enough for anyone. In fact, they should change the name of the promotion to "All the Hot Dogs You Should Eat" Night. But even during the most acute suffering and regret after finishing that fourth dog, in the back of your mind you're feeling a little hacked off that you couldn't get more even if you wanted to.

These were my concerns with the Twin "All You Can Eat Night." What would be the per trip quantity limitations imposed by management? What would be the demand/capacity ratio for food distribution? Based on past Metrodome experience, I figured these would place unacceptable restrictions on by ability to acquire All I Could Eat, the Fraters Field Trip was scuttled.

We now receive a report from Mike, at Mooshka's Mind, who believed in the dream and attended this promotion. Excerpts:

The first thing we noticed when we hit the concourse was the all-you-can-eat food line. It was insane. We walked approximately 6 or 7 sections in the direction that food line was forming and it was still going. Absolutely nuts. This is still half and hour before the game and the line is that long. And my favorite part is that they still had only the one "Field Fare" location open, serving all of these people. Brilliant. *******

After a couple of innings, the guys next to us decided to go for another round of food. Rather than go down and find out how long the line was, we instead decided to time these guys and see how long it took them to come back. Half an hour later, a couple of the guys come back. Half an hour! That's at least an inning and a half, and might have been two full innings. Crazy talk!

Mike notes that this was the Twins first attempt at this promotion and they may improve conditions as time goes on. We will be monitoring this situation and alert you with all breaking news on this story.

His reference to leaving the game for food and coming back a half an hour later actually brought back memories for me of the other baseball option we have in town. I was a regular attendee of St. Paul Saints games in their first few years of existence. The promise of outdoor baseball and Mike Veeck inspired fun was enough to draw capacity crowds from the beginning. Ask anyone what their primary memory of those days were and I'd bet they'd answer the same thing: the lines for the bathroom.

The little municipal stadium the Saints play at on Energy Park Drive was not built the notion of 6,000+ beer swilling fans in attendance. In-house plumbing could at best accommodate the typical crowd for a Minnesota Vixen game.

So they compensated by putting a couple of outhouses behind the bleachers, down the base lines. Even then the lines were huge, a trip to relieve yourself would cost you at least an inning or two of the game. Luckily, there was a beer stand flanking the outhouse, so you were not actually deprived access to the primary reason you were at a Saints game. Although fueling up in line also increased the urgency of the moment for all involved. Any dawdlers in the Satellite were subject to a chorus of cat calls and derision. I recall one drunken agitator suggesting the best way to start a riot would be, when you got to the front of the line, pull out a copy of the Sunday New York Times for all to see, sit down, and slam the door.

In recent years, the Saints have upgraded their facilities and the gargantuan bathroom lines are a now a part of history. I see this past Sunday the Saints had a promotion that was officially a reference to Sen. Larry Craig's bathroom antics. From the looks of it, I take it as a tribute to all those brave outhouse line denizens in days gone by.

UPDATE: Speaking of Northern League baseball, idea for the next MOB get together. Road trip to Wichita.

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