Monday, March 31, 2014

The Journal Sentinel Touts The Drinking Culture

The Journal Sentinel has devoted reams of copy to Wisconsin's many-faceted, multi-billion-dollar struggle with alcohol abuse, so editors should take a closer look at what the paper is leading with as Open Day returns Major League Baseball to Milwaukee. 

Does celebrating cold beer for breakfast make the paper part of the problem or part of the solution?

Springtime in Milwaukee: Beer, brats and Brewers opening day

There's cold beer and hot brats for breakfast and a baseball game after lunch as Monday's opening day tailgate is well underway in the parking lots surrounding Miller Park. | Updated: 11:00 a.m.

Update: I don't know when the headline changed, but "Fans hit the parking lots early at Miller Park before the Brewers’ home opener" sends a better message.

I've been to many an opening day game, and I take second-place to no one's lige-long love of the game, but for too many fans, the drinking at the stadium often takes precedence over baseball on the field - - to true fans' aggravation.

Here's a true story:

A few years ago, I went to opening day with a friend from out of town. He worked for a high-profile professional sports franchise - - I will not be any more precise for obvious reasons - - and for business reasons wanted to observe baseball in Milwaukee.

As we were walking to the stadium from the parking lot off Canal St., my friend stopped, in shock at the drinking.

Not the tailgating. He'd seen that before.

The drinking.

Like he had not seen.

He took out his cellphone and began recording images.

The scene he found the most unbelievable was a drinking game taking place at the back of a rental truck.

In the truck was a half-barrel of beer, a card table with glass pitchers filled with beer, and a long piece of plastic tubing topped with a funnel.

A guy standing at the back of the truck on the lift was pouring pitchers through the funnel and tubing; the 'game' was to see if young women could open-throat-swallow a pitcher of beer gravity-fed through the funnel

With a crowd of about 15 people watching - - mostly young men - - we saw one young woman actually swallow an entire pitcher of beer as onlookers chanted "drink, drink, drink."
My friend was surprised that stadium management tolerated the behavior - - an indication of what is more widely-permitted, even encouraged, in a state always ranking at or near the top on various rankings of binge drinking, drunk driving, and other alcohol-related negatives.
Years ago the team had a campaign against the two-fisted slopper - - the fan who sloshed you with beer as he brought multiple beverages back to his seat.
I do think the team is doing a better job of alcohol-control inside the stadium, thought I think it's still a mixed bag outside given the weird scene I saw after a game two summers ago when a very drunk young man ran full-speed into the side of a taxi parked in the queue working its way toards the stadium gates.
But my posting today is directed at the newspaper.
Be truer to your larger mission - - "reshaping the culture" - - as the editorial board defined the state's challenge after a year's worth of investigative reports called "Wasted in Wisconsin" - - by starting at home.


Max B. said...

Look what it did to former Speaker of the Assembly Bill Kramer.

Gareth said...

Frankly I'm getting sick of the 'brats and beer' tag that national broadcasters inevitably toss into any coverage of Wisconsin athletics, like they've just noticed some really unique must-know information.

Famed broadcaster Howard Cosell once referred to the drunken fans outside the stadium, who rocked his limo back and forth, as 'animals'. That pissed a lot of people off, but hey, if you can't handle the truth, just drink a little less.

I stopped going to Brewer games in the late 80's after witnessing --and nearly getting dragged into-- a really nasty brawl in the parking lot. This is what happens when idiots drink beer for breakfast.