Obesity and Sports: The Unhealthy Contradiction


Baseball is back, and with it comes all of the baseball essentials that generations of families have grown up with.

The smell of fresh-cut grass.

The sound of the ball hitting the mitt.

The sight of chili dripping from the deep fried hotdog onto the protruding stomach of the overweight fan.

While gross, the last staple of baseball, and of most all sporting events, is very real and very unhealthy. More than 20 million hotdogs, made out of god knows what, were projected to have been bought by fans in Major League Baseball stadiums in 2013 alone. That is just baseball, now imagine that number when combined with basketball and football and hockey, tennis, NASCAR, and more. More than that, unhealthy foods and monstrous creations have become the norm in sports arenas and stadiums across the nation, each one seemingly attempting to one-up the one before in amount of food fried, strangest combinations, and arteries blocked. Obesity is a problem blubbering out of control in America, and we can see that that is the case in even the most unlikely places: sporting events.

One would think that sporting events would be immune to the unhealthy food craze that has seemingly captured American’s taste buds. Think about it: people are paying money to watch some of the most athletically and physically superior human beings in the world use their abilities to perform extraordinary feats. There is no reason why watching the perfect-body, sculpted, physical marvel Lebron James dunk a basketball should make someone want to grab a chili dog. It does not make sense that when fans watch a batter like Giancarlo Stanton hit a ball so hard that it flies out of a stadium that it should make them crave a Coke. Yet despite this, despite this apparent contradiction where fans become their unhealthiest while enjoying watching the skills of the healthiest, that is exactly what we see happening. The sad part? Stadiums and teams know this and they feed on the feeding craze, and choose to profit from it rather than try to prevent it.

Take, for example, the professional baseball team the Atlanta Braves. The Braves made headlines during spring training when they unveiled the newest member of their organization: the Burgerizza. That’s right, the Braves, who, granted, projects to be one of the worst teams in all of Major League Baseball, made headlines and onto SportsCenter, for their newest monstrous creation – not their team’s play. The Burgerizza is a cheeseburger, topped with bacon and five slices of cheese, but in case that is not enough, instead of buns it has pizza slices. To put in perspective how unhealthy this thing is, the company that is making it did not even choose to find out the calorie count! The Burgerizza is just one in a long line of unhealthy food creations created by professional sports venues to try and drive sales. From the Donut Burger to the Funneldog (a corndog with funnelcake surrounding the hot dog and topped with powdered sugar) the amount of unhealthy foods offered is, well, unhealthy.

The sad part here is that the teams are not offering these foods for fun, they are doing it to make money. The only thing worse than the unhealthy beasts offered by the stadiums is the fact that fans are actually buying them! It is not only the high-priced crazy options that are the problems, it is the fact that the healthy foods at stadiums are scarce and expensive.

Let’s take, for example, the menu of the Miami Marlins Baseball Stadium – Marlin’s Park. The normal, yet still unhealthy, hotdogs and burgers are between $6 and $8. Yet if you want something healthier, say fish tacos? $12. About the price of a ticket. Furthermore, just finding the food is difficult – the next time you are at a sporting event, walk around the venue and count how many locations you see that are advertising something healthy, something other than hotdogs, chicken tenders, pizza, or burgers. It is startling. This amount of advertisement and ubiquitous locations for purchasing diabetes-inducing delicacies should not be a surprise, not when advertisement dollars are factored in. We know that unhealthy food items make up a large portion of the advertising pie – anyone who has watched the super bowl and seen commercial after commercial for Doritos, Coke, Pepsi, and different kinds of beer can tell you that. But when the numbers are crunched and the true amount of dollars coming from unhealthy products is calculated, the results are frightening. Three of the top four biggest spenders on super bowl advertisements over the last decade are food and beverage companies – all unhealthy. In fact, in Sports Illustrated’s list of 50 most powerful people in sports there are two different executive from Coke.

Now why is this important? Why does it matter that healthy foods at a stadium are as elusive as World Series rings for the Chicago Cubs? Well obesity affects more than 1/3 of American adults, and can lead to heart disease, strokes, diabetes, and more. It truly is a health epidemic in our society, and yet we as a society are content on letting it happen. When the venues that house the healthiest and most physically fit and gifted members of society can get away with selling little to no healthy foods for high prices it says that our country has a problem. When children are allowed to watch commercial after commercial of unhealthy foods and drinks, which has been proven to increase consumption, or attend the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR race or watch a Nuggets game at the Pepsi Center, we have a problem. Sports has been known to reflect our society, but in this case it both reflects it and fattens it. Despite this, there is little outcry and even less consumption of healthy foods. America is getting fat and happy, literally.

Obesity is a gigantic problem, one that extends beyond sports, but one in which sports does nothing to combat. If Americans choose to eat poorly, fine. But they should not be pushed in that direction by the institution that should stand for healthy choices and exercise.

Instead of a Burgerizza, we should hear about the new turkey sandwich or salad. Instead of the all-you-can-drink-soda deal, we should be able to buy bottles of water for less than $4 a pop. Americans need to trim down, and maybe trimming down the unhealthy food options at sporting events can make a difference.

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