Hello, Engorge Us! All-you-can-eat Pavilion @ Dodger Stadium, 9/6/08

The freest food in the free world

The freest food in the free world

Pre-game warm-up. DF sits impatiently in the southbound 101 traffic. Don’t these goddamned slow-ass motorists realize they’re interrupting an important mission? After a year and a half of talking a big game about taking on the all-you-can-eat right field pavilion at Dodger Stadium, DF is finally going to step up to the plate and match his appetite to the onslaught of low-end ballpark chow that lies in wait.

Top of the first inning. Running late. At ticket gate. Let’s see: the price for a ticket in the left-field pavilion runs $13. It includes the following free food: none. The price for a ticket in the right-field pavilion runs $40. It includes the following free food: Dodger Dogs, peanuts, nachos, popcorn, soft drinks, and bottled water. That’s a $27 difference, so let’s do the math: conservatively assuming that each of these food units average about $5 per, in order for the left-field pavilion to create savings, you’d have to eat six units of all-you-can-eat food, which would retail for $30 in the left-field pavilion. Can DF consume over $27 worth of free food? If you have to wonder about the answer to that question, you don’t know DF.

Bottom first. Arrival in all-you-can-eat pavilion (AYCEP). I pause briefly to steady myself against a support beam. Pleasure overload—the sights and smells of unlimited ballpark food have made me briefly swoony. I assume a place in line, and when I get to the front, I ask the lady for two Dodger Dogs. She serves them up with a “That’s all you got, son?” arch to her eyebrows. Oh, I’ll be back, senorita. Just you wait and see.

Top second. Here’s an important AYCEP tip: request an aisle seat. This location affords easy in- and egress to facilitate the frequent trips you’ll want to take to the concession stands and, as the case may be, casinha. The first two dogs go down smooth, smooth. The diet cokes are delicious and refreshing. The sky is blue and cloudless, and a cooling breeze tempers the late-summer sun. I am at a point of complete satiety when I realize, to my horror: I am at a point of complete satiety! This is awful! I am under a moral obligation to consume god knows how much more food! Panic sets in, then abates. I’ve trained for this day for some time, engorging myself on excess and unnecessary foodstuffs so I could face up to this gargantuan challenge. DF may not be “talented” in any traditional or remunerative sense, but let no one say he cannot eat with the world’s best (or at least, fattest and greediest).

Bottom second. Oh, and there’s also a game afoot of some significance. The Dodgers lie just in second place, a mere half-game behind their opponent, the Arizona Diamondbacks. The pitching matchup is as mouth-watering as the prospect of endless stadium chow: former Cy Young winner and 19-game winner Brandon Webb faces off against Dodger ace Chad Billingsley.

Manny at the bat

Manny at the bat

Top third. The game has barely begun, but already the AYCEP abounds with the detritus of excess. Crushed foil hot dog wrappers, discarded popcorn bags translucent with grease, and empty paper soda cups accumulate beneath the bleachers in an embarrassment of garbage. I shift my footing and unwittingly step into a half-eaten tray of nachos, leaving my flip-flop encrusted with cheez and a jalapeno slice stuck to my heel.

Bottom third. Manny Ramirez bats with the bases loaded and two down … and strikes out. Feh. By now, a few basso profundo belches have cleared space for additional consumption, and I make my way downstairs to continue the process of self-engorgement.

Top fourth. DF wanders the AYCEP, taking it all in (horrible overeating-themed pun fully intended). The lines for food are actually quite short, and DF faces no wait in acquiring additional food. The longest lines are, bizarrely, for the concession stands where you have to buy refreshments. Candy and beer are not included in the gratis smorgasbord, but this does not prevent people from shelling out for plenty of both. Suckers. The interior section of the AYCEP feels cozy and personal in comparison to the grandiose and cavernous innards of the main Dodger Stadium grandstand. There are picnic tables and misters for those who find the ballgame an unwelcome distraction from face-stuffing.

Bottom fourth. DF returns to his seat. Second verse, same as the first: two dogs, two diet cokes. DF’s ravaged GI system expresses more than a little skepticism this time around, not least because the baking sun does not make for the most hospitable counterpart to a bursting gut (day games may be the home run hitter’s friend, but they are the excessive eater’s mortal enemy).

Top fifth. Vegas odds on DF hurling by game’s end have shrunk to 2:1.

Bottom fifth. In a welcome distraction from the controversy within me, Manny Ramirez bats with two aboard and launches a deep drive toward right. DF loses sight of the ball, but the crowd all around rises to indicate that it’s headed this way. Then it drops out of the sky and into the throng just a section over. Dodgers lead 3-0. Also, the fact that the homer occurred in the fifth inning somehow means that kids will get a $15 discount off tickets to Universal Studios, where they can be scared shitless by the superannuated but still horrifying Jaws ride.

Top sixth. Do the souvenir-sellers in the stands ever not seem heartbreakingly piteous? The one who visits our area has some success hawking what is clearly the best Dodger accoutrement of the summer: a headpiece with do-rag and blue-and-white Manny-esque dreads. I ask if they sell them in adult size but am met only with a withering, “Hey guy, my job is hard enough without you mocking me” look of derision from the vendor. I am too embarrassed to explain that I totally did want to buy the Manny wig.

Bottom sixth. Key AYCEP tip number two: they close down the food service stations in the seventh inning, so if you’re scheduling your consumption carefully, you need to take this into account. DF wisely figured this out beforehand, and has slated the upcoming mid-inning break as the next and last food foray. Thankfully, the Dodgers stage an extended four-run rally to give DF’s groaning innards some much-needed prep time. LA stretches the lead to seven-zip when hapless right fielder Justin Upson loses a deep Manny fly ball in the mile-high sky and it drops for a ground-rule double. We’re all like “That was a pretty big screw up, son.”

Top seventh. By now the vendors have departed, but they’ve also left a mountain of Dodger Dogs on the service counter for us to grab at will. Now undeterred by the potential embarrassment of asking a staff person for an excessive number of hot dogs, the AYCEP patrons go apeshit, pushing and grabbing to get the last of the chow. DF enters the fray and comes away with two dogs and, only marginally less appetizing, a handful of someone’s hair attached to a chunk of bloody scalp. I’ll save that for dessert!

Bottom seventh. Seventh inning stretch? More like seventh inning retch! Hey-o! Seriously, though, this third round appears to be going down well. “DF not barfing” may still be the underdog choice, but the odds are shortening.

A critically important sign

A critically important sign

Top eight. DF sits, breathing shallowly, in his bleacher seat as the sun beats mercilessly down. All around him lies the evidence of the orgiastic feast—wrappers, food trays, stray onions, and a glaring yellow mustard stain on his black shorts. Inside his strained tum, an ungodly stew of hot dog “meat” amid carbonated cola roils about. And yet: the sixth hot dog has been vanquished, and the fifteen or so minutes just after consuming it—peak puking time—has expired. There is light at the end of this horrible, wonderful tunnel.

Bottom eight. True to form, the LA crowd has largely dissipated by now, as the Dodgers are clearly rolling to another big win over their divisional rival. DF cools down with a nice refreshing bottle of water. The water bottles proved to be unusually popular (perhaps because of their easy take-home-ability? DF observed more than one patron stowing away a large number of bottles in a bag for post-ballpark consumption, but said nothing because he’s no snitch). Also a big hit among the AYCEP crowd: nachos! These were clearly the number-one foodstuff of choice. Ballpark classix like hot dogs and peanuts ran second, with popcorn an idiosyncratic third (I observed one portly gentleman ascend the bleacher staircase balancing at least six greasy popcorn bags all on his own).

Top nine. After giving up a couple sloppy runs, Dodgers closer John Broxton is summoned, and he’s all like “Let’s get this shit over with,” notching a strikeout to seal the victory and an ascendance—however momentary—into first place for the blue. Strains of “I Love LA” echo through the ballpark and into Chavez Ravine as DF waddles carward.

Post-game wrapup. Baseball and eating are both stat-saturated sports. This game saw the Dodgers prevail 7-2, as Manny Ramirez drove in five runs and hit his 31st homer. DF had an even bigger day, putting away six hot dogs, three cokes, and one bottle of water. That’s a $15 game ticket and $50 worth of food for the low low price of $40—hey, this thing pays for itself! So for those of you who called DF a “disgusting pig” for expressing enthusiasm for the AYCEP, who’s the disgusting pig now? (Hint: the pig is not DF. It is, ironically, the people who called him a pig.) Time now for a well-earned nap, dear readers. I’ll catch you on the flip side.