I wasn't going to write about this, but it's been baffling me for weeks and I must get it out of my system.
Topps' Opening Day this year features an 18-card insert set called "Incredible Eats". This, as a concept, is a great idea. The food at ballparks has become a national obsession with more restaurants opening up and full stories written every year on the new offerings at each park. The foods seem to be getting more exotic and strange and why not feature some of that on something called "Incredible Eats"? Some of this food is pretty incredible!
But as often is the case, Topps has flubbed the execution.
One of the cards in the insert set is simply "fresh popcorn" at the Braves' new stadium, Suntrust Park, showing a disembodied hand holding up a box of popcorn. And, in a similar fashion, another card is "peanuts" at Miller Park in Milwaukee.
You know, those things that you can buy at any major, minor or independent ballpark in the country. It would be a borderline crime if a park didn't offer peanuts.
Here, let's take a look at some major league park offerings:
At the Pirates' PNC Park in Pittsburgh you can find the famed Milwaukee peanuts at Manny's BBQ.
At Dodger Stadium in L.A. you can find those peanuts that made Milwaukee famous at Brooklyn Dodger Dogs.
At Safeco Field in Seattle, they serve Milwaukee's finest at the Ballard Pizza Company.
In Marlins Park in Miami, those Milwaukee peanuts are part of the All You Can Eat package. Stuff yourself so full they can hear your groans in Milwaukee!
And at Suntrust Park in Atlanta, peanuts are on the menu at Smokey Q, Ballpark Classics, Potato Cutter, Centerfield Market, 1871 Grille, The Slice, Taco Factory (taco factory?), Dessert Dugout, Fry Box and Sausage Haus.
Because peanuts, of course, aren't specific to Milwaukee. It's a food synonymous with attending a baseball game regardless of where you are.
So why in the world are we citing Miller Park?
If that really is Miller Park. That's about as generic a photo of a vendor I've ever seen. (Also he appears to be holding a bag of ... sunflower seeds).
Miller Park actually gets two generic food entries. There is another one for that other ballpark food item rarely found outside of Milwaukee -- the nacho bowl.
Again, tell me one thing about that photo that says this nacho bowl is being served in Milwaukee.
Yet there is no Miller Park Incredible Eats card of bratwurst or fried cheese curd or ribs or ... come on, I've never been to Milwaukee and I know what foods should be on the card!!!
This set is all over the place. There are no cards for a number of major league teams, yet there are two for Milwaukee and Texas' Globe Life Park and three for Fenway Park (including the generic "cotton candy" -- at least it looks like the photo was taken at Fenway Park).
The frustrating part is that some of the cards seem to be spot-on, featuring foods for which the city is known: pastrami at the Mets' Citi Field, buffalo cauliflower poutine (yicck) at the Blue Jays' Rogers Centre and cheesy corn brisket-acho at the Royals' Kauffman Stadium. Probably my favorite is the South Philly Dog, which not only says "Philadelphia" but also shows Phillies food wrapping in the shot.
To me, the inconsistency means that the set is unnecessarily large. Topps could get the concept right for maybe half of the cards and the rest are uninspired or simply ridiculous.
Pare this down to nine cards and you've got yourself a collectible set.
I know Opening Day is supposed to be "for kids" and kids wouldn't think about "concept" and "execution," but I don't think you should dumb down ideas just because you think adults aren't buying it -- which, obviously, they are.
I can find peanuts and fresh popcorn at almost any ballpark, county fair and movie theater in the country, and probably would have been able to do the same 70 years ago. That food is not "incredible." It's about as regular as it gets.
What is incredible to me is seeing this: