City Paper is not for tourists
Lord knows what Windell Middlebrooks would have done if he’d gone to FedExField for the Redskins–Kansas City Chiefs game. Middlebrooks is the face of Miller High Life, that Albert Haynesworth–looking dude who drives a beer truck in commercials and loudly removes his product from inappropriate vendors.
Well, at FedExField, they’ve been selling suds in the men’s rooms.
Yup. The men’s rooms.
A photo of a beer man camped out inside a stadium bathroom was posted on the official Redskins message board, ExtremeSkins.com, early last season, along with anecdotes from fans that Dan Snyder’s salesmen were pushing the product on an audience of his pee’ers at various spots around the stadium. That first batch of visual evidence didn’t get much attention outside the message board.
But then last weekend, the same guy who posted the shot a year ago put a video of FedExField’s head hawkers on YouTube. Commenters again chimed in to say they’d seen such sales at various men’s rooms during Skins home games. After Washington City Paper wrote about the clip, it went viral, so to speak. The bathroom beer vending gave the world another reason to mock the Redskins.
Even folks who regulate beer sales for a living were shocked and awed by what they saw.
“Our phones were ringing off the hook last week,” says Norma Lindsay, the chief liquor inspector for Prince George’s County. “Everybody—us, the [county] health department, everybody—got involved. That sort of conduct is absolutely against code, because it’s a health issue. There’s every sort of health inspector in the world at that stadium for Redskins games, but nobody had ever heard of that or witnessed it before. I can’t even imagine who would want to buy a beer in the bathroom. That was frightening.”
“Oh, my lord,” gasped Jill Pepper of the TEAM Coalition as she watched the video of the bathroom beer sales for the first time.
Stadium beer is Pepper’s bailiwick. The TEAM Coalition is a local nonprofit that, Pepper says, was formed “to promote responsible consumption and sales service of alcohol” at major sporting venues.
There is a lot of money in beer. Pepper says that based on previous research, the football crowd of 80,000 gathered for the Kansas City game would have purchased at least $400,000 in beer that afternoon. The desire to increase those revenues can lead to bad behaviors. Pepper says her group offers training and certification programs for stadium vendors in which “responsible” sales techniques are taught. Pepper says 20 of the 32 NFL teams put their beer vendors through TEAM training. The Redskins do not participate.
Pepper, whose primary mission involves preventing the sale of booze to drunks, wasn’t ready to throw the book at the bathroom vendor, however.
“Looking at that video, from the perspective of what we’re trying to accomplish, I’m happy to see that the people who are purchasing aren’t showing warning signs of impairment,” she says. “They weren’t slurring their words, they weren’t stumbling, they were standing up straight. They weren’t loud or overly aggressive. Those are the things you are trained to look for.”
All well and good. But couldn’t the willingness to buy beer in the bathroom be taken as proof of fuckedupness?
“Well, if you were going to stop by the concession stand for a beer anyway, you’d have to admit there’s a convenience factor,” she says. “But, OK, selling beer in the bathroom doesn’t fall in the category of responsible service. There’s no question that serving alcohol in the restrooms is something we would not recommend, just from a hygiene standpoint.”
Barbara Hyde would agree with Pepper on the hygiene angle.
Hyde is a longtime spokesperson for the American Society of Microbiology. She says her group has never before dealt with men’s-room beer sales, or the vending of any sort of consumables in such quarters. But when the FedExField situation was presented to her by a reporter, Hyde had a quick reaction.
“My immediate thought is, ‘Eww!’” says the microbiologists’ mouthpiece.
Hyde’s disgust has some scientific backing. For starters, AMS regularly releases reports on how often folks wash their hands after using the toilet. The studies use data collected in public restrooms. So what’s the most soiled sample group ever found in all the years AMS has been trolling near the toilets? Those patronizing the men’s room at an Atlanta Braves game. Fewer than half the wizzers washed up afterward. A football crowd would follow the baseball crowd, Hyde surmised. And even though swine flu paranoia might have resulted in a temporary and slight uptick in male hygiene—guygiene?—Hyde says the increase wouldn’t be enough to make the men’s rooms safe for food vendors.
Hyde says bad bugs that hang out in bathrooms—she mentioned staphylococcal bacteria and E. coli—just love to travel the “oral-fecal route.” And once you get those beauties in your system, diarrhea is only an appetizer compared to the ailments they can cause.
“A bathroom can be hazardous to your health,” she says, “particularly as guys, since the track record for guys is, after they urinate, they’re quite disinclined to wash their hands. You pick up things from all over in the bathroom. When they hear this, some guys say, ‘I don’t think my hands are contaminated.’ Well, they might not be picking anything up from the act of urinating, but you may be carrying around bacteria and viruses from other sources. Even without the science, frankly, I’m surprised anybody would be considering mixing any type of food or beverage with the bathroom setting.”
The Redskins were not sanctioned by P.G. County for the bathroom beer sales. Lindsay says she’s confident that the men’s room vending is in the past at FedExField. Her agency has been in contact with the team and its caterers since the story broke, she says, and they’ve assured her that the salesman in the video has been fired. But, she adds, just in case, county health and liquor inspectors have all been briefed on the situation, and from now on they’ll all be spending more time in men’s rooms.
“We’re used to dealing with sales to minors, selling after closing time, sales on Sundays,” Lindsay says. “Nobody ever thought of looking in the men’s room for beer sales. That one’s going down in the books.”
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