There have been changes at Citi Field, home of the Mets, this season. The inter-innings entertainment has switched from a four-car running race – fire truck, yellow cab, police car and er was it a limo? – to a three-car pedal race – with corporate branding. And Keith’s Grill, purveyor of some of the finest burgers in New York, has moved from behind left field to somewhere in the right-hand corner.
The menu has been modified as well. Last time I visited the was either the Gold Glove burger – basically your standard 6oz burger – or the Mex burger – with avocado and bacon. Both were thick enough that the juice ran down to your elbows.
Now you can get the 108 burger* billed as a taste of the Big Apple. It comes with Havarti cheese, Deli mustard (ie mild as you like), all topped by a huge mound of pastrami inside a pretzel bun and served with a Titanic-sized pickle.
Just like older versions, the burger was thick and juicy and the bun had the sort of solid consistency needed to hold the whole thing together. The pastrami was incredible, caramalised and chewy in just the right places. It rather overpowered the rest of the ingredients, and just the sort of thing – you imagine – favoured by a muscular first baseman.
It still comes with the bag of crisps (potato chips, if you must) and the lollipop.
Last Friday’s blow-out against the Dodgers was the second part in my sporting doubleheader. Earlier in the day Nottingham Forest started their latest Championship campaign with a nervy 1-0 win over Millwall.
I don’t think I have ever bought food at the City Ground. Why would you? You don’t go to English football grounds to eat. My routine is generally to buy haddock and chips from Carrington’s Fish Bar and scoff them on the way to the ground. Beer is drunk at a pub en route. The whole point is to arrive a few minutes before the game and leave at the final whistle.
The culture surrounding English football could not be further removed from that surrounding baseball, where fans arrive early to eat and stay late to watch fireworks (after Saturday home games) or run the bases (with Mr Met on Sundays).
Here are some of the difference I have noted in the past three years with the Mets…
- Tear down season – the most depressing aspect of the 2017 Mets. With no relegation or promotion and the play-offs out of reach, this season is effectively over. The team is done, being broken up with an eye on 2018. Lucas Duda and Addison Reed have been shipped out and any numbers of others would have followed if they were wanted by other teams making a late season push. There is no notion of mid-table security in this game, which kind of tells you all you need to know about American sport
- Punditry – the TV commentary makes no attempt at neutrality. Gary Cohen, Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez (the burger maker) are fans. Cheerleaders. Their channel SNY is jointly owned by the Mets. So last season, they made no mention of the fact that David Wright clearly couldn’t throw the ball from third to first, and made only fleeting reference to the tabloid scandal that clearly derailed one of Bartolo Colon’s outings
- Corporatisation – everything is sponsored to within an inch of its life. When sponsorship changed from Pepsi to Coke the Pepsi Porch seating area became the rather clumsy Coca Cola Corner. Banner boards proudly proclaim Cheez Doodles to be the official cheese puff of the New York Mets. And – of interest to readers of this blog – all the burgers in the stadium are made from beef supplied by Pat LaFrieda. A million miles from Forest who not so long ago played with their owner’s name emblazoned on their shirts for lack of other sponsors.
- Entertainment – I dimly recall the Hooters girls performing during half time at the City Ground when football was trying to go glam. Everyone was too busy going to the loo and getting a cup of Bovril to pay any attention. It never really worked out Baseball entertainment takes things to a whole other level. Look what the Braves got going on…
What does it all mean? Two different sports, two countries. America has the better burgers. And the Freeze.
* (If anyone knows why it is called the 108 burger then please do let me know. Is it behind section 108? Is it related to a Keith stat? If so, I can’t find it…)