Monday, May 21, 2007

How the Nats Struck Out My Beer Craving

To explain how much The Green Miles enjoys drinking, we need look no further than the events he's helped organized for Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment:

- Hike & Happy Hour
- Organic Wine Tasting
- Organic Beer Tasting
Seeing a pattern? So you can probably guess that an essential part of any trip to a Washington Nationals game (especially a mind-numbing 11 inning affair that saw only three extra base hits, all doubles) involves several cold beers.

But Saturday night the Nats managed to limit my intake to just one beer. How?

Strike One: Make Beer Drinking an Embarrassingly Wasteful Experience.

The Nats' vendors walked around with cases of cans of beer along with huge stacks of plastic cups, ripping the lids off the cans and pouring the contents into the plastic cups. Why the extra step, expending two containers for one beer? The beer man said there was concern about fans throwing the bottles onto the field. But plastic and even metal bottles are sold at the beer stands, so that explanation doesn't make sense.

A different rationale comes from the Nats 320 blog: "Apparently an order from Management concerned over the amount of plastic trash thrown on RFK Stadiums floor during each and every game." What's the difference between picking up a plastic cup and a plastic bottle? At least the bottles are recyclable.

But there's the rub -- there's no evidence recycling of any sort takes place at RFK Stadium. The huge "PLEASE RECYCLE" logo on the side of the Bud metal bottles (modeled here by The Green Girlfriend)? It's just for show -- there are no recycling bins at RFK.

While the team's new owners are taking great steps towards making the team's new ballpark environmentally-friendly, they've turned the simple act of ordering a beer into a green guilt trip.

Strike Two: Only Open Half the Beer Stands for One of the Year's Biggest Games.

For the Nats' best-attended game since opening day with an announced attendance of 30,661, cracking 30,000 for only the second time this year, half the beer stands in the upper deck were closed. I went for beer in the 6th inning only to find long lines (10-20 people) at the stands that were open.

Strike Three: Serve Warm Beer.

Once I finally found a stand with fewer than 10 people in line, I got to the front only to find that of the several beers advertised at the stand, only cold Budweiser was available. The Nats' upper deck beer stands have the worst system for keeping beer cold imaginable -- a guy with an ice chest. Once the beer that was in the chest at the start of the game is gone, he's selling warm beer for the rest of the game.

I tried to get the team's side of the story, but it's incredibly hard for an average fan to talk to an actual Nats employee. I called the main number on Sunday afternoon (while a game was being played at RFK), but got sent to a voicemail. Forget email -- I tried emailing them back in December saying, "I want to buy season tickets, please call me," and never heard back. And my Nats ticket rep recently quit for a job with the Redskins and I haven't been told who my new rep is.

Any additional explanation for the beer vendors and the plastic cups? Any idea why the Nats don't recycle? Comment away!
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