Baseball club owners have discovered that the way to a fan's heart -- and more important, to his wallet -- is through his ever-growing stomach.
The latest gimmick to get people to the ballpark: all-you-can-eat seats, where you can pile on all the hot dogs, pretzels, nachos and soda you can guzzle.
Some parks, for an extra amount, add in beer, desserts and candy -- so that every major food group is included.
Baseball execs know how it is. You try to watch what you eat to maintain your high cholesterol/blood pressure levels, but in the rush of daily life it's sometimes difficult to consume all the fat/salty foods required.
Too often, it's easier just to pick up a quick salad or some fruit and be on your way. With the "all-you-can-eat" plan, you can load up on enough fat and salt to last a whole year, or maybe a lifetime, especially if you keel over in the eighth inning.
Dan: Earl, did you see Bob get up for the seventh-inning stretch? He's just sitting there not eating.
Earl: (Glub, glub.)
Dan: Yeah, we better check on him after the game.
The great part about the plan is that it combines two of America's favorite pastimes -- eating to excess and gluttony.
It also allows the parks to follow one of the basic rules of successful American restaurants -- serve bad food and lots of it.
And for those so inclined, it also offers baseball -- a relaxing sport that doesn't get in the way of eating (though they may want to replace the seventh-inning stretch with the third-, fifth- and seventh-inning belches).
Since it works for baseball, there's no reason the "all-you-can-eat" plan can't work for other institutions that are struggling to lure visitors.
Opera houses -- Opera is perfect because it already includes lots of singing fat people, the kind who don't make you feel guilty about indulging in that 15th hot dog.
And as everybody knows, "It ain't over till the fat lady sings," and having the fat lady gorging on some cheese-drenched nachos while aiming for the high notes would add untold entertainment value.
Art museums -- Visiting an art museum can be a painful experience, especially if it's open and there happens to be a special exhibit.
It's virtually impossible to figure out what the artist is trying to say and, besides, you're not allowed to eat or drink. And they supposedly want people to come see the paintings? Hel-lo!
But we could see a renaissance of art appreciation if only the hoity-toity highbrow curators would have the sense to combine a Matisse exhibit with an all-you-can-eat baby back rib 'n' beer night. Attendees, of course, would be asked to refrain from touching the artworks until they had carefully licked their fingers clean.
Ballet -- Admittedly, dance is a tough sell. Having all those obviously undernourished people prancing about onstage isn't conducive to relaxing evening of stuffing your pie hole. If nothing else, people in the audience might feel they had to offer the dancers a drumstick.
To make the theme work, it might be necessary to offer "dance-free" performances where dancers are prohibited from appearing. Also, if enough free beer were provided, it might be possible to have the audience members themselves get up and dance, though the wearing of tights would be strictly forbidden.
With sound marketing plans, there's no reason you won't soon hear people say, "You know, hot dogs always taste better at the opera house (burp)."
Write to Don Flood in care of King Features Weekly Service, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475, or send e-mails to email@example.com.
© 2008 King Features Synd., Inc.