Weekly Five Spot: Sports Cuisine

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Weekly Five Spot: Sports Cuisine
Who knew turkey could do so much damage?

It's four days after the fact, and we're still feeling the effects: Torpor. Bloat. The sudden propensity to do things in the bathroom that are far beyond anything you could ever even insinuate on a respectable sports website. Thanksgiving is, of course, the most uniquely American of holidays, predicated on excess and stripped of everything but a shameless lust for even more shameless consumption. Which is a recipe for gastrointestinal disaster, as the crew at the Spot learned the hard way, but still we'd be lying if we told you anything other than that one and only truth:

We can't wait for next year.

So it goes with gluttony: No matter how much you hate it, you can never get enough. It all comes down to Man's relationship with food, really; we're creatures of need, all of us, and no want is more compelling than that of an unsatisfied belly. You might even say that we're born to ingest, in fact—and nowhere is that clearer than at the ballpark, where it's a rare fan who can make it through the national anthem without taking a bite out of something edible. In that spirit, this week's list is nothing less than a celebration of our common humanity, a reminder that the guts of our brotherhood lies, well, in our guts. We've all got to eat, after all, and if you don't know how to enjoy—

Hold that thought, Meat—we've got some business to take care of. And if we were you, um, we'd stay away from the toilet for awhile...

Number Five: Sunflower Seeds

Sometimes, it's all about context. There's nothing inherently compelling about the sunflower seed; it's small, it's salty, it takes so much effort to eat the damned thing that you end up losing calories in the deal. That said, there's no denying that it just plain works at the ballpark, where there's nothing like a handful of seeds to help pass the time. And it really is a matter of setting, because it's not like you can pull off the sunflower vibe anywhere else: You'd never bust out a bag at the movies, or a rock concert—it just wouldn't make any sense. Another place where seeds don't quite fit: Funerals. If you're ever fixing to get some seriously dirty looks—well, forget it. Some unpleasantness is best kept out of cyberspace.

Number Four: Peanuts and/or Cracker Jack

Yes, yes—the song. We usually don't go in for musically-mandated conformity—remember the Nazis, Meat—but we've got to make an exception on this one: The Peanuts-and-Cracker Jack motif is part of who we are as a people, proof positive that eating-as-ritual is bound up with the very essence of the human experience. When you lay into a box of ooey-gooey caramel corn at the ballpark, you're not just keeping your dentist in business; you're participating in an act of gastronomic communion, and laying claim to the spectating legacy of generations past. Plus, you get one of those super-sweet temporary tattoos. Anyone who claims to be too old to rub a flaming skull-and-crossbones on his shoulder isn't fooling anyone but himself.

Number Three: Sushi

...and everything for which it stands. The sports world has witnessed the rise of a particularly troubling sort of close-mindedness in recent years, a stomach-centered orthodoxy grounded in the notion that there is, somehow, a "proper" menu of ballpark fare. Keep it simple, the argument goes, keep it holy and righteous and pure. Well not on our watch, Meat. Sports are supposed to be about inclusiveness, and in this age of globalization and cross-cultural exchange it's absurd—outrageous—to argue that international delicacies have no place at American arenas. So give us sushi, dadgummit, and fajitas and jerk chicken and everything else the kitchens of the world have to offer. And give us some Pepto-Bismol, while you're at it, because it's only the third inning, and we're already working on our fourth continent.

Number Two: The Hot Dog

What was all that about globalization? Diversity is nice, but anyone who's up on the literature knows that you can't have cultural openness without a healthy dose of tribalistic blowback—and therein lies the hot dog, that so-very-American standard. We didn't invent the thing, of course—nice work, Frankfurt—but damned if we didn't make it our own; we drowned it in ketchup and put in on spongy, empty-carb-loaded bun—and the rest, as they say, is history. Think of it like this: How many dudes do you know who've never had a hot dog at a ballgame? Two, maybe three tops? And are they all either Communists, cripples, or cow worshipers? We thought so. It's like the old saying goes, Meat: If lips and hooves and assholes don't scream American identity, we don't know what does.

Number One: Beer

As if there's any argument. Beer is, well—it's beer, and frankly there's not much more that can or needs to be said on the subject. That first cold beer in the cheap seats is a bona fide rite of passage; it's as close as the modern American male gets to a vision quest, with all the heady atavistic poignancy associated therewith. And so we're straight: It's not just about the buzz, because it's not like you can substitute, say, a double gin-on-the-rocks and achieve the same effect. No, there's something special about those hops and that barley, something perhaps rooted in Bates' amber waves of grain, or Fitzgerald's dark fields of the republic. It's something that's awful hard to put a finger on, in any event—but that's no reason not to try, and so maybe if we just took one or two or ten more cracks at it—

What? You've got a problem with alcoholism masquerading as legitimate scholarship? Back in our day, Meat: Back in our day we called that "college"...

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