In 1980, Green Bay Packers defensive end Ezra Johnson got hungry while riding the bench during the second half of the team's preseason loss to the Denver Broncos, so he flagged down a passing hot dog vendor. While his snack brought him a $1,000 fine, it illustrates what had been the pro jock's traditional dietary habit. But in the age of huge contracts and a ban on performance-enhancing drugs, this is changing. Now, the healthiest place in many stadiums to eat is the team's clubhouse.
According to the Wall Street Journal(subscription required), candy, cold cuts and colas are being replaced with low-fat, low-calorie alternatives in many baseball locker rooms. The San Francisco Giants recently hired a chef away from a local top-drawer restaurant to create a menu of healthy dishes. He put the team on the no-fry list by offering grilled meat, and sent mayo back to the minors.
The change is driven in part from the huge stakes for players that can be skewed by huge steaks. With baseball stars routinely pulling in $10 million or more a year, extending a playing career by a few years by maintaining their health can bring them an enormous return. Last season, lefty Jamie Moyer pitched for the National League champion Philadelphia Phillies at the age of 46. If he had retired at the more typical age of 37, he would have missed out on the $65.5 million he has earned since then.
The message hasn't gotten through to the fans, however. Pro sports clubs continue to get fat on the fat-laden menus that fans seem to prefer. Management of the new Yankee Stadium tried to add healthier choices to the broad menu available, but much of the grub is still waistline and cholesterol unfriendly. The opening day menu of stadium vendor Brother Jimmy's, known for its barbecue, included sides of fried pickles, macaroni and cheese, hush puppies and baked beans with smoked pork.
According to Teammarketing.com, the cost for a family of four to attend a Yankees game last year, including four tickets, two beers, four small soft drinks, four hot dogs, parking, a program and two caps was $410.88. That's one way the Yankees pay those enormous salaries, so one could say that, in part, the smart dining in the clubhouse is paid for by gluttony in the stands.
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack ... but the players will have filet, thanks