The Cincinnati Reds are selling sushi at Great American Ball Park this year, and all we can know about that is, nothing says hardball in Cincinnati quite like a smoked salmon roll. Pete Rose is rolling over in his seat at the racetrack.
American soldiers saved the world on a diet of canned Spam. The Big Red Machine ran on Wheaties, Red Man and greenies. There is nothing in either narrative that mentions sesame ginger crab rolls, with a side of edamame.
This is going to take some getting used to. It's not that Cincinnati isn't cosmopolitan enough to enjoy an occasional eel roll. It's just that not that long ago, we were eating head cheese.
We still consume 99 percent of all goetta made. According to Wikipedia, goetta is "a peasant food of German origin,'' made of pork shoulder and oatmeal. We enjoy it. It's not the greatest of distinctions. But it's something.
Sushi? I don't know. I really don't.
They have clam chow-dah in Fenway Park, Cuban paninis at Jacobs Field and Boog's Barbecue in Baltimore. They have fish tacos in San Diego, which is fine. This ain't San Diego. This is the home office of paid baseball, established 1876. Johnny Bench slept here.
We eat hot dogs and their various kinfolk: Mettwurst, bratwurst, all the wursts. We drink beer. It's who we are. Buy me some su-shi and char-donnay? I don't think so.
The Reds' reasoning is sound enough. They're trying to give more people more cause to attend their games. If you serve it, they will come. It's another attempt at feeding baseball to the masses who, in some cities, aren't coming to the table as much as they used to.
Baseball is the National Past-time. The public prefers the NFL. Ballclubs have souped up the product, because the game isn't enough anymore. The game can't stand alone. The game and fireworks? OK. The game and bobbleheads? Sure, let's go. The game and a concert, the game and a hat/bat/poster/what's-at-the-bottom-of-the-Cracker-Jack-box? Count us in.
The game and ... the game? Not so much.
The Reds realize this. In recent years, to appeal to younger fans, they have marketed baseball as an appetizer, especially on weekends. Come see us at 7:05, stay awhile, then go out and have your evening. To that end, the club has initiated happy hour drink prices and created an all-you-can-eat section, where you can pay extra to inhale hot dogs until your head explodes.
The promotions have reached such a level, I once suggested in a column that the club devote more money to marketing and less to salaries. The way baseball's economy works, the Reds and their ilk will never win consistently. Why not make it all about entertainment? The team isn't great, but those lucky-number scorecards are awesome.
The NFL doesn't do this, because it doesn't have to and no meat-eating NFL fan would be caught dead with a piece of raw mackerel between his thumb and forefinger. Except maybe in San Francisco.
In Cincinnati, all the heads have been bobbled at least twice and really, once you've binged and purged on bratwurst once, you aren't likely to do it again. So ... sushi.
"We are the official sushi of the Cincinnati Reds," Merritt Oleski, owner of Sake Bomb restaurant in the Cincinnati suburb of Hyde Park, told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "It has a real ring to it, doesn't it? It shows that this is 2010, and sushi is much more in the mainstream."
You can buy it for between $12 and $14. "If you'd like a gin and tonic or a rum and Coke with your hot dog (or sushi) instead of a cold Bud, it will be easier to get,'' the Enquirer notes. Oh, happy day.
Real baseball fans don't come to the yard to eat ahi and slurp cuba libres. They just don't. Problem is, there aren't enough real baseball fans. You should see the cynical, smirky grins I provoke when I walk to my seat with my scorebook and pencil. All I need is a hat with a propeller.
If I really want sushi -- which, honestly, I really don't -- I'm probably not going to the ballpark to get it. I don't recall the last time I went to a Japanese restaurant to take in a ballgame.
But it's great to know that if I'm at a Reds game and have an urge, inexplicable and overwhelming, to dive into a California roll, they've got me covered.
By the way, the Ohio River flows right beyond the outfield walls. Does that make anyone else nervous?