Dear Cincinnati Reds:
I recently attended a baseball game between the Reds and the Pittsburgh Pirates at Great American Ballpark. I don’t usually go to your stadium to watch the games live because walking across Fort Washington Way and looking at the Pepsi Smokestacks in the outfield kind of make me hate being there. I don’t mind the Mountain Dew bottles racing each other on the scoreboard or how Mr. Red always loses the Skyline Chili race because he is too tempted by a 3-Way to finish the competition. That guy’s lack of dedication kills me every time.
I only really went through all the trouble of driving downtown, parking my car on Fourth Street and walking a 5-year-old over the 10-lane freeway because it was a nice day and my sister was in town. The three of us (me, sister, niece) had a good time overall, thanks largely to your Kidzone, which distracted our niece from the cotton candy man she spotted selling the fluffy sugar sticks to children in an aisle all the way on the other side of the stadium. It was the fifth inning and she was starting to get bored, but that blow-up bouncy castle thing really made her day!
It was fun to walk around in my Chris Sabo jersey, holding the hand of an adorable little kid wearing a Griffey T-shirt and reflector shades. I felt like an adult, and I gladly spent $20 at two different concession stands before the second inning. La Rosa’s pizza? Yes, please. $5 beer? I’ll take two. Throw in one of those giant pretzels, because I kind of have a hangover.
But before I could head back to my Kroger Bleacher Seat and enjoy the lovely day and Johnny Cueto’s ability to strike out nine batters but still give up four runs, I had to find some nachos for the kid. The nachos at your stadium have been a personal favorite of mine for years — offering a sweet salsa on one side and nacho cheese on the other, the perfect snack for two people to share in the ballpark. Your choice of salsa was great (Chi Chi’s?), and at a game a couple years ago a former girlfriend got double cheese instead of salsa, and I got super mad at her.
I found your nacho stand on Saturday and I accepted that this snack now costs $6.25. Your sporting events aren't about getting a bargain (the $25 pink bat we purchased for the kid didn't go over too well with her father, for reasons beyond its price), and we came to the park looking for no such deal. I'll gladly pay $6.25 for nachos, but what ensued after I placed my order on this day still hurts my heart:
“I’ll give you six dollars and twenty-five cents for some nachos, please... Um, what is this pre-packaged plastic box? Is this “Ballpark Nacho” product the only form of nacho that you offer at Great American Ballpark? ... It comes with a packet of jalapeno relish? What the hell is that?"
Have the Cincinnati Reds — the world's first professional baseball team — seriously stopped serving a decent nacho? This classic sports snack is one of the easiest products to prepare — for years your organization even let the people working the volunteer stand handle this extremely simple task: Put handful of nachos in middle of plastic bowl; ask customer if he/she wants cheese and salsa (distribute accordingly); offer jalapenos and place on the top if confirmed.
Even our 5-year-old was offended by your “Ballpark Nacho” product. I didn’t even given her my opinion, hoping that once she figured out how to open the plastic bag containing the mini nacho chips that she would enjoy them as if she had never partook in the classic version. She doesn't have the memories of day-games-gone-past, spending quality time with a nacho-eating partner and snacking on one item for innings at a time. But one dip of her finger into the cheese-food that shared this sealed plastic space and she said, “This cheese tastes funny.” I almost had to laugh.
Reds, I understand that you’re a business and that times are tough these days. I don’t like the Toyota Tundra pickup truck sitting in the center field seats where a 550-foot home run off the “full-size truck that’s changing it all” will win one lucky fan a truck of his own. But I get that, I really do. And you can add your red wine and shrimp cocktail and sushi to the ballpark menu if you want — I might even be convinced to partake in some of these new-age ballpark delicacies, should the right item sound tasty on a given day.
But don’t do these things at the expense of the ballpark staples that have helped make baseball and America great for all these years. Nachos most not be outsourced in order to save money or increase efficiency. Fans will wait in your long lines, we will pay your exuberant prices, but when we finally get to the counter and start stacking foods on top of each other in that flimsy cardboard drink holder, we must not be disappointed.
Bring back the real nachos, Reds. It's the least you could do.