Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack
OHMIGOD THERE’S FECAL BACTERIA ON EVERYTHING!
Those would be the opening lyrics to Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer's classic “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” if the song had been written today -- and if the song was written honestly.
By now you have likely heard about the snow-cone vendor at Minute Maid Park who took his snow cones with him into a stadium bathroom stall while attending to his waste-making needs – or, as Houston’s Channel 2 news reporter Bill Spencer referred to it: “Knocking it out, taking the Browns to the Super Bowl.” Yes, the vendor’s actions were so deplorable it made someone think of the Cleveland Browns.
If only this was an isolated incident. Unfortunately, a 2011 review of MLB stadium food inspection records by Business Insider found violations in every venue except the Rogers Centre -- and that’s probably just because Canadian health inspectors are too polite to cite anyone for violations.
All but a few concession stands at Dodger Stadium got cited for “general uncleanliness.” “Vermin” and “filth flies” were spotted at Yankee Stadium. “Red slime” was found in an ice machine at Coors Field. The inspection of Chase Field turned up a live cockroach and rodent droppings throughout the stadium. Drink trays were stored on the floor at Kauffman Stadium. Employees at Citi Field gained notice for their “inadequate” cleanliness. And Minute Maid Park, while toilet cone-free in 2011, was cited for eight critical violations and 33 minor violations.
All of this can be fixed, however. That’s the point of inspections, right? To find the problems and get them fixed. For example, Minute Maid’s offender was relieved of his job soon after he relieved himself. Crisis averted! Nothing to fear, right? Baseball stadiums are safe and healthy! There’s no better place to take the family!
Wrong. Because unsanitary concessions at the ballpark are the least of our concerns. Our biggest threat is us. We, the fans. The literally unwashed masses.
Research done by the website UFE.com -- that stands for Urine Feces Everywhere; yes, they do the Lord’s work -- found that 8 percent of female fans at Wrigley Field didn’t wash their hands after using the restroom and 79 percent of male fans didn’t do so. Go Cubs!
What is there to do about this? Absolutely nothing. There is no city board of health that can come in and force the citizenry to practice basic hygiene, although such enforcement was likely considered in the 1960s to fight the hippie menace. Because we have freedom in this country, people are free to just walk around covered in fecal matter. Look at the Statue of Liberty. Lady Liberty is perhaps our greatest symbol of freedom and she only showers when it rains. U-S-A? U-S-A?
“But I’m not a cesspool of germs and disease! I wash my hands at the game!” you say.
A. Statistics say you’re probably a liar.
B. Even if you’re not lying, there is simply no way to avoid contamination at a major league stadium. Filthy fans infect us all. You can wash your hands all you want, but you’re still leaving the game with a bunch of stranger waste all over your body.
Don’t believe me? Step inside a stadium with me and see.
Ahh, but how do we get into a stadium? We push through the turnstile, the same wheel of bacteria everyone else has wriggled through to enter. So far, one step into the stadium, your hands and midsection are contaminated. A great start!
By the way, since we’re just focusing on stadium pestilence, we won’t address all the fans who pushed through the turnstiles just after getting off public transportation, which is essentially composed of bus and train-sized Petri dishes of human contamination.
Where were we? Ah, yes, covered in bacteria after getting through the turnstiles. Now let’s head over to a concession stand to get some food! To pay, you’ll need to use some money which has been handled by countless people and never washed once. Then it’s off to the condiment stand to put ketchup on your fries. Lean in really good on that ketchup pump’s handle so you can get the maximum amount of stranger germs on your hand.
Game time! Woo! They scored already! High-fives from all those around you, most of whom didn’t wash their hands after using the bathroom! And now with your freshly contaminated hands, let’s grab another handful of fries and shove them into our mouths.
Uh-oh. Bathroom time. You’ll want to avoid the urinal with the standing puddle of urine around at, as you are Mr. Hygiene. Unfortunately, not all fans have done so and they undoubtedly tracked the urine all over the floor. So you’ll be stepping in it whether you like it or not. Good thing you’ll incinerate these urine-caked shoes before you enter your house later tonight! What? You won’t? You’ll walk onto your carpets with them? You keep them in your bedroom? Where you sleep? Good God, man. It’s like you want the plague.
OK, the bathroom trip is over. It’s back to your seat. Hey, let’s dig into those fries again! You know, the ones you kept safe from contamination by sliding way back under your seat. Under the seat bottom covered in gum and snot and where spilled sodas and beers from the rows behind you cascade down to. Well, it was a good idea in theory.
Maybe we should pass on the fries and order a hot dog from the friendly hot-dog vendor. “Hey, I’ll have one!” Here it comes down the row, the hands of some 15 strangers touching your food before you put it in your mouth. As though ingesting a hot dog, the Russian roulette of meats, isn’t risky enough alone.
And on and on it goes, high-five after high-five, bathroom trip after bathroom trip, germ-coated hot dog after feces-fraught frozen treat. There is no way to avoid it.
Our only savior may be beer. Beer, which will make you not care about the viral sea around you. Beer, which maybe has enough alcohol in it to kill all the bacteria attacking your body.
Just make sure you order it from a vendor who doesn’t have toilet paper stuck to his shoe.