26 July 2009

Harvard Professor vs Beer Vendor

So, for the last week or so we've heard quite a lot about Professor Henry Louis Gates and everything that happened with his arrest.

Most of the news has centered around the African-American outrage at continual issues with police forces around the country. I've continued to keep an open mind at hearing both sides' account of the incident and frankly, as with anything, there's two sides and then there's the truth. No one, but those present in Gates' house (I think a total of 3 people) knows what EXACTLY went down. Every other pundit is just that, a pundit who, within hours of the story are retelling it as if there were standing in Cambridge for the actual event.

Racism is alive and well in this country. Electing Barack Obama as President has not changed that and likely won't change it since it's behavior that is rooted in people's experiences either positive or negative with those who are different to themselves.

What I say next is not meant to open a debate on the issue (please don't), but just share what I heard in the row behind me at this past Saturday's Chicago Cubs v Cincinnati Reds game. The fans behind us were great. None of them were from Chicago or Cincinnati but found themselves new to Chicago with jobs after college. They were there just to enjoy a game in historic Wrigley Field. In fact, they wanted to do everything that was patently Wrigley while there were there.

One of those experiences is having an Old Style beer (if you're of legal drinking age). I don't believe you can buy Old Style in any other ballpark in Major League Baseball. I remember Old Style logos on the scorecards bought for me by my Grandfather in the early 1970's and still today, it's available for the incredible price of $6.50 per 16 oz. cup. But Old Style IS the Cubs.

We noticed all day that it seemed like there weren't enough beer vendors in the upper deck. Frankly it's been like that all year long. I guess Aisle 424 isn't known as a "big money" aisle for the beer vendors so they just don't seem to come around frequently enough. The group behind me patiently waited and finally, they were able to flag down an Old Style guy. He only had two left and they needed four. They still bought them and he promised to be "right back" to complete their order. He was a really charismatic fellow and made quite an impression on the group. They tipped him and reminded him to come back and he promised he would. He talked about how with the Cubs back on a winning streak, and the beautiful weather, that Chicagoans had been waiting for, for months, that they were as busy as they had ever been.

But he didn't show up again for over two innings. Still charismatic, the group engaged him in a little bit of ribbing for not coming back so soon. It was at this point that Richard, vendor 2613, selling Old Style beer and who happened to be an African-American leaned in, right behind my head and tried to whisper (poorly),

"Let me tell you, and I'm just being honest here, we only have four guys to sell beer up here today. It's the Jewish guys. They all gotta have off Friday and Saturday and it just kills us. Don't get me wrong, I make more money on those days but it sure makes it tough since they have to take off for being Jewish."

I nearly spit out my Diet Pepsi all over the guy in front of me's head. I just couldn't believe that a guy whose income depends on getting tips and selling product would make that comment KNOWING that others would hear it. No, take that back, I couldn't believe that a guy who works for Levy Restaurants, contracted by the Chicago Cubs, would even think about uttering an anti-semitic remark in the stands to fans.

Cub fans are accused of many things. Some of them well-earned, some not, but vendors, no matter their life's experiences, need to shut their mouths of their personal beliefs and do their jobs. The group behind me just wanted to buy beers, not be treated to one person's issues with a given group.

So yes, we have a long way to go with racism and antisemitism in this country, and it's not just one or two races who suffer, it's religions, beliefs and economics. I doubt it will ever go away 100%, but I'm just shocked at hearing things from people who are themselves, subject to these same crimes against our senses.

I have written a letter to the Levy group and do not know if it will be acted upon. But I hope I never hear this again at Wrigley. I'll be watching for Richard and hoping that he doesn't share these thoughts of his at every Friday and Saturday home Cubs games. Full house or not, seats will slowly empty with attitudes like that and frankly, I hope he never finds himself a victim of hatred because I'd be hard-pressed to feel for him.

No comments:

Post a Comment