Take Me Out to the Brisket: An Englishman on BBQ Sandwiches at Rangers Ballpark
Here's something -- I am a very big fan of baseball. I can't explain why. I guess it's like really fast cricket. Anyway, I used to watch it late at night on TV back in the U.K. quite obsessively. It's the only American sport I've ever managed to get on board with, American football being poorly named and like rugby only with pads and a lot more stopping, and basketball having a meaningless amount of points-scoring to a man brought up on 0-0 soccer matches in the biting winter cold.
Here's something else -- I'm a Rays fan. I know, I know. Theirs was the first baseball stadium I visited, on a holiday to Florida, and the idea of a baseball stadium being entirely indoors amused me no end. "What happens if the ball hits the roof?" I asked the guy next to me. "It happens sometimes," he shrugged, indifferent to the chaos that architects can wreak on sports. "Hey, are you Australian?"
As such, being 15 minutes' drive from a major league stadium, I find myself at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington a lot. Luckily, as with many major public attractions in Texas (especially the delights one can find at the State Fair), the cartoonish aspect of Texan stereotypes is played up to the nth degree. This is because Texas is fun, and doesn't take itself too seriously. No one in Britain would go to an over the top British-themed anything. I saw the version of Britain at Epcot and I vomited out my spleen in fury.
Getting a brisket sandwich on Dollar Hot Dog Night is akin to asking for a $50,000 car when someone just offered you a perfect serviceable one for $1,000, and I get some funny looks, even some questions like "Don't you want a hot dog?" I do not, no, unless it's a Longoria's brisket sausage, and given these prices I would not be prepared for that unless I sell not only everything I own, but everything I ever threw away or will own in the future. So, as if to antagonize the staff, I bought two brisket sandwiches. One Texas Rangers BBQ Smokehouse's own brand, and one Sweet Baby Ray's Barbecue Sauce brisket sandwich. There was a 75-cent difference in price, with the Sweet Baby Ray's being cheaper at a still unbelievably hefty $8.50. Both were served with an anemic pickle and the most basic salted chips imaginable. Texas Rangers brand at least had the largest vat of barbecue sauce I had ever had. I would say it was Texas-sized if I didn't completely hate that expression. There's a dentist by my house who advertises "Smiles The Size Of Texas!" THAT WOULD BE FUCKING TERRIFYING.
Gavin Cleaver That's $9.25 right there. Turns out that there is crying in baseball, once you add up the cost.
Taking my haul back to my seat, where I had missed a home run, something that seems to happen every time I vacate my position, I unwrapped the Sweet Baby Ray's to be confronted by a basic hamburger bun with a stingy helping of brisket. At $8.50, I believe that works out to about $1 a bite, and that the brisket in that sandwich is worth more per pound than Elvis Andrus. It's also worth reporting that, at the same time, I got a chicken sandwich from the SBR's stand that was drier than licking the Sahara. Even my stepson couldn't manage it, and he will literally eat anything except peas, for some reason. We theorize he's scared of spherical foods. Anyway, as you can probably imagine, the SBR brisket sandwich was chewy, dry, in stale bread and generally awful. Not even a romanticized notion of ballpark food can save that one.
The Rangers' brand one was a lot better, even though at $9.25 for a sandwich and one quarter of a small pickle it should at the very least be limited edition, and Craig Gentry should have signed it "KITTENFACE." There was so much brisket in it that it spilled out everywhere, and the brisket actually felt like it had met a smoker once. It was relatively tender, and the sandwich had much better bread than the other one, but still it's nothing too memorable. I guess you can't expect much from mass-produced ballpark food, but this is really decent enough.
Gavin Cleaver Mmm. Sauce.
So, if you are at Rangers Ballpark and you need, nay you demand, brisket, get the BBQ Smokehouse one, not the Sweet Baby Ray's. Either way, do it on a night that's not Dollar Hot Dog Night. In fact, it's Nolan Ryan Duster Bobblehead day coming up soon, so try for that one. Oh, and the Rangers lost with the tying run at the plate in the ninth, Andrus striking out for the last out. I'm not one for superstition, but next time I'll get a hot dog.