Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Ale and athletics...

As the Maryland Columnist for the Mid-Atlantic Brewing News, I attended this past weekend's Maryland Brewer's Spring Fest at Harry Grove Stadium in Frederick, MD. Seeing as Harry Grove is home to the Baltimore Orioles' class A affiliate Frederick Keys, the entire time I was there I was constantly reminded of the long-standing relationship between the professional athletics and alcohol industries. Incidentally, yes, that is me. To my left (just out of the shot) is the owner of Red Brick Station, a brew-pub in Whitemarsh, just outside of Baltimore (further to the left are people lounging in the bleachers, enjoying the live music - the stage was set up at home plate).

I want to comment on this only because of an off-season controversy wherein MLB granted Daisuke Matsuzaka permission to wear his new Red Sox jersey in an ad for Asahi Beer that had a number of people in an uproar in the United States...also due to the recent death of a Cardinals pitcher, whom I won't bring up again.

As you might be able to tell, I don't mind imbibing on occasion. I actively seek out good beer. I like the fact that my local minor league park also serves beers from both of the area's brew pubs, and I like to have a beer while watching the Sox or Pats play.

That said, I also believe that there are too many people that take it too far at the games. Believe it or not, I will go to Yankee Stadium in full Red Sox regalia (have done it, last time was for a Derek Lowe playoff loss in 2003) before I would go to the Linc in Philly for a Pats-Eagles game. It's one thing to go to a game and cheer for your team, and even engage in a little bit of banter with fans of the opponents - it's another when families from other areas show up and the children are harassed, cursed at, and sometimes spit on by home-town fans who were drunk at tail-gating parties hours before the game started (this happens all too often, and Philly is not the only place I have read about this happening).

There was a time when that was Foxboro, before the Krafts decided they needed to make the stadium family friendly.

I don't think the cessation of the service of beer is necessarily the answer, and would rather not see that happen. What I would like to see happen is more common sense being applied by fans. This could be a lot to ask from a group whose most intellectual argument on why their team is superior to an opponent is often comprised of the term, "(insert opponent name here) suck!"

The following, sometimes sobering, numbers were compiled from other sources by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (admittedly, a group trying to impose greater limits on alcohol advertising, particularly during sporting events) -

• Alcohol producers spent $991 million on television advertising in 2002 – 60% of that was on sports programming
• Alcohol producers spent $596 million advertising on sports programming in 2002, an increase of more than 22% over 2001
• In 2001 and 2002, Budweiser and Bud Light spent more than 87% of their combined television advertising budgets on sports programming
• Non-beer brands increased spending on sports programs significantly from 2001 to 2002: distilled spirits sports TV spending increased 168%; alcopops increased 138%
• Beer marketers spent $58 million in 2002 for 6,251 ads in college sports programs
• In 2002, alcohol advertising represented 5.3% of all advertising dollars on college sports, compared to only 2.0% of all advertising on television
• In 2002, beer producers spent $27 million advertising on the NCAA basketball tournament, which had as many alcohol ads (939) as the Super Bowl, World Series, College Bowl Games and NFL Monday Night Football combined (925)
• Bud Light, Miller Lite, Coors Light and Budweiser accounted for 58% of college sports advertising dollars by the alcoholic-beverage industry in 2002

Pardon my French, but that's a shit-load of money.

So, next time you're at the park, drink smart. If you know you're an unpleasant drunk, don't drink at all. And if you're gonna drink heavy, make sure you have a designated driver...and not the one Steve McNair used.

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