It’s that time of year: the World Series just wrapped up, NFL and college football are in full swing, and the NBA and college basketball are kicking off. If you’re a sports fan you’re in ESPN heaven. As I was watching my Cardinals fight for glory and my Panthers pound towards the playoffs this past week, I began to think of the importance of sports and food to our cities.
I only spent 4 years in St. Louis. I can make a long list of why I appreciate the city, but only a few of those really pull at my heart-strings and make me LOVE the city. At the top of that list right above the St. Louis Cardinals is Provel cheese, toasted ravioli, and frozen custard. I can assure you that most St. Louisans share that same love list.
I don’t often think about these food staples of St. Louis and if you’ve never been, you probably haven’t ever heard of them. But as I was watching the Cardinals on television last week I felt myself yearn for night on the Hill followed by dessert at Ted Drewes. Concurrently, I have never loved St. Louis more.
It turns out I’m not the only one who associates baseball with food. The Missouri governor bet a four-pack of Cardinal Cream Soda from Fitz’s Bottling Company, a box of Bissinger’s Chocolates, and baked goods from the Missouri Baking Company in St. Louis and the Massachusetts governor bet New England Clam Chowder, drinks from Polar Beverages, and baked good from Dancing Deer Bakery and Co. in Boston. Luckily for him, Governor Patrick is enjoying the best cream soda he’ll ever have.
And hey – how many of us love peanuts in the grand stand? There’s just something about sports, food, and the love for our cities.
The characteristics that make us love our cities are ones that touch the core of our humanity: those things that we don’t just enjoy, but need to survive. Peter Kageyama wrote a book called, For the Love of Cities: The Love Affair Between People and Our Places. The main premise of this book is view people and their built environment as a relationship of humanity. Kageyama defines four simple elements that makes a place lovable: play, fun, traditions, and social capital. These elements are at the heart of sports and often revolve around food.
The unplanned moments of our lives are the emotional bedrock of our personal relationships with cities. These often result in playful and fun moments. The unknown of who will knock if out of the park, who will pitch a no-hitter (and if a game will end in an obstruction call!) makes watching how it all plays out fun! Also, there is nothing more traditional than playing 7 games of great baseball to determine the glory of being World Champions. And when you’re in play off-season, how many times have you high-fived someone in the street or talked to a stranger about last night’s game in the line at the grocery store? Sports and food build camaraderie (or social capital) on the streets of every city in this country.
It’s a wonderful feeling when we can connect with the most consumable things that make us love our city. In all the stress of life there is perhaps nothing more centering than cracking open a Bud in Busch Stadium. After all, there’s nothing better than being in love.