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Cut the links in Milwaukee before our pastoral game loses face

Column by Rick Chandler, Tribune correspondent

There’s no dignified way to lead into this so we’re just going to say it: An animal rights group wants the Milwaukee Brewers to change their seventh-inning wiener race so that it includes a vegetarian sausage.

This issue may not rank very high on your list of concerns, what with the economy going the way it is, and this whole issue with Iraq. But People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is taking it very seriously, my friends. The race, in which four people dressed as a bratwurst, a hot dog, an Italian sausage and a Polish sausage race around the warning track at Miller Stadium between the sixth and seventh innings, has been a staple at Brewers games for several years. But PETA is fed up with the tradition, and wants vegetarian representation — a soy sausage, to be exact. When do they want it? Now!

But Brewers spokesman Jon Greenberg said that the team has no plans to bring in an additional sausage, according to a report by the Associated Press.



“Our response to that is, while we certainly respect their viewpoint, we consider the sausage race a tradition here that we don’t really care to change in any way,” Greenberg said.

PETA sports campaign coordinator Dan Shannon said it makes sense to include a soy dog in the race, considering the team has begun to sell veggie dogs at the park. To this we say: PETA has a sports campaign coordinator?




When Native American activists wanted the Washington Redskins to change their name, I was all for that. Also, when Phoenix was denied the Super Bowl because the state of Arizona failed to recognize Martin Luther King’s birthday as a state holiday, I got on that bandwagon also, because, in my opinion, that was an important issue that transcended sports.

But now we have this. You see, I knew that once this baseball strike business was settled there’d be trouble.

I am happy to admit that I had been unaware of the Famous Racing Sausages until this issue arose; in fact, I was barely cognizant of the Milwaukee Brewers themselves. You see, when I attend baseball game, I tend to want to concentrate on the game itself.

Four wieners scurrying around the outfield just don’t do it for me. But that’s just me. There must be people who are sitting at home in Wisconsin, wondering what to do the following day, and say to their spouse, “You know, a Brewers game might be fun. I hear they have those racing sausages.”

I’ve seen it all, and I don’t get it. For a while when I was covering the Oakland A’s, they treated us to a daily dose of something called dot racing — in which three colored dots would race around a track on the scoreboard in right-center field. And the fans would go completely nuts over it.

I’ve also seen teams bring out the Frisbee dogs and the costumed mascots. I’ve sat stoically as all around me did The Wave. I’ve been this close to two guys doing the Macerena during the seventh-inning stretch, and it wasn’t pretty.

Fans, when the top of the seventh is complete and the seventh inning stretch is announced, all you are legally allowed to do is stretch. Any extracurricular behavior, such as singing “Who Let the Dogs Out” while on all fours, is completely out of line.

This behavior should be reserved for Arena Football and state politics — activities where comic distractions are desperately needed. But baseball is our national pastime, fershoshsakes. It has a rhythm, a beauty, a pastoral charm that does not lend itself to wildly rooting for the guy dressed as a bratwurst.

Take Tuesday evening’s Giants-Dodgers game, for example. This is one of the greatest rivalries in sports, and the teams entered the game with identical records, tied for first in the NL West wild-card race. The Giants led, 5-2, and the Dodgers were threatening in the sixth. And what were Dodgers fans doing?

They were batting around beach balls. Evidently there was some sort of promotional giveaway, and fans throughout Dodger Stadium had inflated beach balls and were tossing them merrily — the game having to be stopped several times as the spheres bounced onto the field.

At one point Fox Sports television’s Duane Kuiper yelled into his microphone: “Is anyone watching the game?!”

Our attention spans have become so shortened that not even nine innings of uninterrupted baseball is possible. I guess Americans need their comic relief, and you could put this column in that category, I suppose, as long as you have a very broad interpretation of the words “comic” and “relief.” But please, do not read it at the ballpark.

Also, and this is very important, if any of you fans have the uncontrollable urge to yourselves dress as a grilled food item, please stop, and contact this column. We’ll counsel you in a firm but loving manner, and help you cope. Competing in a wiener race may seem glamorous at first, but it is in

reality nothing but a road to shameful regret. Don’t let it happen to you.

— Rick Chandler’s weekly column, Capacity Crowd, can be found at http://www.nbcsports.com


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