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Nats Spots, Dots and Dogs

Today's column looks at how the Washington Nationals hope to revive the public's excitement over baseball's return now that Major League Baseball and the D.C. Council are apparently finished with their efforts to put political squabbling front and center.

If you'd like to see the Nats' new TV ads, we've put them up on the site here ("Believer") and here ("Signs") and here ("Food")--unless you're lucky enough to have Starpower or Direct TV, you won't be seeing many Nats games on TV this year, and these ads are placed primarily during game coverage, on the theory that folks watching the game on TV are the most likely to come on out to the ballpark. (Interestingly, the Nationals marketing people tell me they have very little interest or confidence in the ability of local TV to sell tickets; they're reserving their advertising dollars instead primarily for radio, print and bus ads.)

I like the Believer spot best--sorry, I guess I'm a bit of a sap for that stuff. The Signs spot is cute, and the marketing folks told me that they indeed did try at first to have the kid's sign say "Phillies Suck," but apparently there are still a few folks in the advertising and sports businesses who have a modicum of taste, so they dialed it back to "Phillies Bite." For making such distinctions are the big salaries paid.

The one spot that left me a bit flat--well, maybe even a little flabbergasted (can you really be a little bit flabbergasted?)--was the one touting the food at RFK.

Good news: Aramark, the caterer that has the unenviable task of dealing with RFK's tiny, decrepit and utterly inadequate kitchens and other facilities, is adding a couple of local food offerings, notably Red Hot and Blue Barbeque, which will be available on the 300 level of the ballpark.

Bad news: The demise of Foggy Bottom Ale and its parent, the local brewmaster Old Heurich, means there won't be any local beer at the ballpark. Instead, folks who went to Friday's exhibition game at RFK tell me that Aramark was pouring Miller Lite at the old Foggy Bottom pub on the lower level. Sad.

Aramark is promising a bunch of other new stuff, including Boardwalk Fries, something called Hounds by the Pound, an odd program in which they will serve hot dogs in the manner of the visiting team's town (Vienna dogs when the Cubs come in, chili dogs when the Reds are here, etc.) and--I'll believe it when I see it--ice cream. It's Edy's, which is pretty awful stuff, but on a hot night, any ice cream would be a huge improvement over last season's fiasco.

You may recall that the Nats and Aramark spent last summer arguing that Dippin Dots are ice cream. (Soylent Green is people.) I responded that the Dots are actually plastic pellets ingeniously designed to masquerade as a frozen dessert. Whereupon I received a bullet from Dippin Dots corporate HQ alerting me that their product is indeed dairy-based and not plastic (full text of that glorious email on the jump). Do they offer Remedial Humor courses in business school these days? If not, maybe we've finally found the mid-career move for Joel and Gene when the web finally sends the Dead Trees Edition to the Great Recycling Bin Beyond.

Anyway, here's Aramark's promise of food improvements for this season at the Bobby. And here, for comparison, is what the same company offers at Camden Yards up the road in Bawlmer.

I can't wait to hear the vendors shouting "Paninis! Getcher lightly toasted paninis heah!"

Oh, wait, I forgot. The vendors do just liquids and a couple of basics. Guess we have to wait for the new stadium to get the rest. Play ball!

Here's that email the good folks at Dippin Dots sent last summer.

"Marc,

As your father might ask you, was that really necessary? Not being a regular to your blog I don't know how to read your humor, but, if you meant to be funny surely you can do better. We're a relatively small ice cream company in a great big dairy world...but we make a pretty darn good ice cream. Given the power of your medium (you're the Washington Post for goodness sake), you should know how harmful a statement like that can be. Would you say "Coke is just motor oil ingeniously reengineered to have some flavor and texture of a carbonated beverage."? Of course not.

If we want an innaccurate and harmful message placed in the Washington Post, please wait until we buy it ourselves.

Sincerely,

Terry Reeves

Corporate Communications Director

Dippin' Dots, Inc."

By Marc Fisher |  April 6, 2006; 6:04 AM ET
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Comments

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That "Food" video ad doesn't load so well for me for some reason. Do they mention "half-smokes" at all?

bc

Posted by: bc | April 6, 2006 9:01 AM

Could that Dippin' Dots guy be more bitter and humorless? I think that proves they're not ice cream. Ben & Jerry would've gone along with the joke and put out a "Plastic Pellets" flavor.

Posted by: Miles | April 6, 2006 9:03 AM

A buddy who bartends at the old Foggy Bottom Brewery at RFK told me at the Nats/O's game last Friday ngiht that they'll have more than just Miller Lite on tap. They'll offer Pilsner Urquell and Red Hook in addition to Miller Lite. So there will be some selection of beers on tap. Other beer stands on the concourse were selling Heinekin on tap as well.

And let's be honest here. If the Nats had an actual owner, not 29 disinterested owners and a brain damaged commissioner, there would be better ammenities at RFK.

Posted by: Keith | April 6, 2006 9:17 AM

3 words: Bens Chilli Bowl

Posted by: %&*%& Angelos | April 6, 2006 9:27 AM

I'll second Ben's Chilli Bowl. Nothing better than having a local flavor at the ballpark. Might help sell tickets too.

Posted by: Keith | April 6, 2006 9:31 AM

Helmet sundaes! I want helmet sundaes!

Posted by: daedalus | April 6, 2006 9:37 AM

Just give me a cold brew and a bbq sammich.

Posted by: WB | April 6, 2006 10:17 AM

One thing nobody has mentioned... where is the freaking kettle corn!!! If you sat anywhere in the lower bowl last year, that was your salvation from dingy dogs and expensive pizza. To my horror, it wasn't there at the exhibition game. Is it gone, Marc? Say it ain't so, Marc!

Posted by: Toadstyle | April 6, 2006 10:27 AM

The food ad from the Nats has helmet ice cream. Doe sthat mean it will actually exist at the ballpark?

Posted by: nashpaul | April 6, 2006 10:41 AM

District of Chicken??? Are they serious?

Moreover, why the focus on featuring the specialties of the visiting clubs? DC does have it's own cuisine worth celebrating: half-smokes, Ben's, 5 Guys, and enough foreign cuisine to choke the UN!

No Food Dispensation without Representation!!!

Posted by: Greg | April 6, 2006 10:54 AM

Paninis? Does seem like baseball-themed food to me. But then again, they do need to provide a menu for the McMansion folks.

Posted by: Fooood! | April 6, 2006 10:57 AM

Dippin Dots is great. I don't care if it's plastic or paper or yogurt or ice cream. It's different, flavorful and if they had more than one cart selling it at the MCI Center, I'd buy it everytime I'm there.

Posted by: Dakota Pants | April 6, 2006 12:18 PM

Who's bright idea is it to run American Airlines commercials before showing the Nats ads? I know you guys have bills to pay. but I'm getting sick of getting ads whenever I click on a post.com video link.
As for the ads, I have a problem with the "Signs" one. Instead of a negative sentiment "Phillies Bite!," why not have a sign extolling the Nats? There's enough negative behavior at sporting events that a major sports team doesn't need to endorse or encourage it.

Posted by: leetee1955 | April 6, 2006 12:38 PM

Let me second the vote for HELMET SUNDAES! I have a collection of little plastic helmets from every stadium I've been to ... but the Nats don't have 'em. We need Helmet Sundaes!!

Posted by: Kevin | April 6, 2006 12:41 PM

Minute Maid Park in Houston started the whole thing of serving the visiting team's cuisine, so I'm interested in seeing how RFK does it (though the Post article said it was only available in the Diamond Club restaurant?). If that's the case I'll never see it.

I've been railing about the lack of helmet sundaes since last season. Baseball just isn't baseball without them.

Posted by: dcsportschick | April 6, 2006 1:14 PM

I am just confused as to why baseball fans seem more concerned with the food at the stadium instead of the actual game and their team. I am a diehard football fan. My team has a crappy stadium. I don't know or care what food/beer they serve. I can care less what the view is from the stadium. I could care less how the stadium looks. All I care is if they win or lose. No wonder baseball has trouble sustaining the momentum after opening a new stadium. Most of the fans there are there for the choices at the concessions stand. Is it any wonder that baseball is fighting for 3rd place among sports?

Posted by: Nathan Boggs | April 6, 2006 1:17 PM

I think it's hysterical that Fenway Park, which is so tiny that they have to have deliveries before every game because they have almost no storage areas, has a much more extensive menu than the behemoth that is RFK.
Oh and I want a helmet sundae. Can't they get Carvel in there somewhere?

Posted by: phanie | April 6, 2006 1:23 PM

Huh, looks like base ball fans might be a little more evolved than football fans. That explains the fish fossil with evidence of arms and legs! BTW, any chance of good crabcake sandwiches at the Nats games?

Posted by: WB | April 6, 2006 1:55 PM

It's beyond me that Nats honchos didn't approach Ben's Chili Bowl on a hot dog deal. Ben's IS DC. The official Nats hot dog must be Ben's.

Posted by: dogdude | April 6, 2006 2:30 PM

What will the Texas theme hotdog be? Quail dogs?

Posted by: Theme Food | April 6, 2006 2:31 PM

"My team has a crappy stadium. I don't know or care what food/beer they serve."

Football fans don't get hungry or thirsty at games?

Tell that to a Texans fan- they wait in lines 10 deep for the overstuffed BBQ baked potatoes. There's margarita and beer stands everywhere, not to mention the typical stadium fare. And it only adds to the experience.

Posted by: dcsportschick | April 6, 2006 2:36 PM

Ref: overstuffed BBQ baked potatoes. Please, tell more about this food item! (cooking process, stuffings, etc). Sounds like it might possibly be on my dinner menu tonight!

Posted by: WB | April 6, 2006 3:51 PM

Oh.... They're so good. It's a big baked potato loaded with all kinds of goodness, primarily beef BBQ. Minute Maid is the best for food.

Amen on the helmet sundaes. I've been looking for them since opening day last year.

Posted by: displaced 'stros fan | April 6, 2006 4:22 PM

Yes to helmet sundaes/soft ice cream.

Down with the Dots! They are so nasty. And how can they still be the ice cream of the future if they have been around for at least 12 years?

Posted by: nats fan | April 6, 2006 4:53 PM

Two vendors must be added: Hard Times Cafe and Ledo pizza.

Posted by: Vincent | April 7, 2006 8:39 AM

"Tell that to a Texans fan- they wait in lines 10 deep for the overstuffed BBQ baked potatoes. There's margarita and beer stands everywhere, not to mention the typical stadium fare. And it only adds to the experience."

You are missing my point. You ask those Texas fans about going to a game and the first thing they will tell you is that come to see the game. You can have a margarita anywhere. People wait in line to use the bathrooms at some of the stadiums I have been to. Bottom line: I go to see the game. And only the game. I could care less if they don't have Ben's Chili dogs or dippin Dots. I come to see my team win the game. Period. Now if they have good food or drinks that is great. But I get more enjoyment watching my team play and WIN than the food or the view.

Posted by: Nathan Boggs | April 7, 2006 9:28 AM

To Nathan Boggs, you've made your point. Twice. We've read your point. Twice. I agree with the other person who stated that good food adds to the experience. We are still cheering our team. We want to see them win too. That's the basic reason why we want the team in DC. We could enjoy good food without baseball any day, but when we can enjoy the both of them together, that's better yet! You go to your football games and eat whatever mystery meat you wish to and we'll go to our baseball games and enjoy what we want to enjoy. GO NATS!!

Posted by: Lyn | April 7, 2006 9:57 AM

"Would you say 'Coke is just motor oil ingeniously reengineered to have some flavor and texture of a carbonated beverage.'? Of course not."

Wow, he didn't even bother to read your columns, did he, Marc? That sounds exactly like something you'd say. You're my role model, a world-class...er...POT stirrer. Yeah. That's it. :D

The idea of food specialties from visiting teams' cities is a great one, and should go over particularly well in this area that 1) has a more transient population than many cities, and 2) is more diverse, particularly internationally, than most of the smaller markets. I'm not comparing it to NYC, but KC? Arizona? DC's more diverse, if nothing else due to the concentration of diplomats and international businesses. I know we're talking about American cuisine, but my point is that DC residents probably would appreciate the difference at least as much as the largest and most diverse markets out there.

Man, I hope Johnny's Half Shell opens a raw bar at the new stadium. Oyster shooter every time a Nat homers!!

Posted by: The Cosmic Avenger | April 7, 2006 11:20 AM

I'm pretty sure that Mountain Dew is re-engineered motor oil. Ah! Dippin Dots is secretly into the cola business!

Posted by: WB | April 7, 2006 12:21 PM

Ice cream did turn up towards the end of the season at RFK at least on the upper level. They had carts selling pints of Turkey Hill ice cream of various flavors. Pretty dang good. Down at Viera during spring training this season they did have the little Nats helmets but they were filled with Dippin Dots (ick)

Posted by: jw | April 7, 2006 1:02 PM

I'm not supporting of following the Nats until MLB sells the team to a local owner.

Can't wait for the season to begin for real.

Posted by: Sam | April 7, 2006 1:23 PM

You know what else I'd like? (No, I didn't ask if you cared.) Those little cups of ice cream that you got when you were a kid that came with the flat wooden "spoon"...OK, let's call it a trowel...wrapped in paper. OK, so I'm being nostalgic, but they were really creamy and fresh tasting.

Posted by: The Cosmic Avenger | April 7, 2006 1:59 PM

Ever wonder why DC United fans have such huge tailgates? The Aramark food scuks. Badly.

Posted by: Footy | April 7, 2006 3:02 PM

Comic Ice Cream Cup Avenger, those small cups of ice cream were terrible! It was foamy. And the chocolate was on the bottom and you couldn't get all of it out. Here, let me give you a cyber bowl of Ben and Jerry's Vanilla Heath bar ice cream. Mmmmmm, Ben and Jerry's Vanilla Heath Bar ice cream.........

Posted by: WB | April 7, 2006 3:03 PM


Hey Aramark how bout adding Ben Chilli Bowl to the mix at RFK.

DC Bubble may have maligned the bowl over here: http://dcbubble.blogspot.com/2006/01/you-gotta-comment-whats-up-with-bens.html

But at least they are DC based.

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Posted by: online directory main | April 22, 2006 4:09 PM

Dippin' Dots are the BEST!! The ice cream is superb. It is a high quality product. There are more than 24 flavors. If you want soft ice cream, just wait a while and you will have high quality ice cream better than anything at Ben and Jerrys.

Posted by: Sam | August 10, 2006 8:54 PM

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