There is something perfect about the relationship between cold beer and hot dogs. That coexistence is what I endeavored to fully understand on Saturday night at Protective Stadium.
I can’t remember everything about that night, which is probably for the best, but I can confirm that the occasion for this monumental dedication to research and exploration was the second half of a USFL football game between the home-team Birmingham Stallions and … another home team the league is calling the Houston Gamblers.
For one season at least, there are only home games for the new USFL’s experiment in Birmingham. The eight-team league plays four games per weekend, and tickets are only $10. I’m normally in the press box for football games, but for this one I was in the stands. That’s where the fun happens, where memories are made and where new traditions and questionable decisions are recorded on iPhones.
The Stallions won the game 33-28, but the world won a great victory when, attempting something we saw on the internet, me and a couple friends crushed some tasty hot dogs immediately after dipping them in cold beer. Yes, you read that correctly. A new level of sports was unlocked when three stadium bros submerged perfectly prepared stadium hot dogs into a cup of clean, refreshing cold beer, and then ate them.
We dunked the dogs, and we loved it. This is a column about dropping hot dogs into cold draft beer, and the pursuit of universal truths that reach far beyond the world of sports. For example, can’t do that with a sandwich or a taco.
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Let me just say this before anyone passes judgment. I’d do it again. In fact, I’d pay to do it again. Hot dogs in beer, which my buddy Michael Casagrande now calls a hot-dog float, are actually pretty good. We saw the video of a Yankees fan doing it at a game, and decided that guy was someone we wanted to emulate.
Because we’re idiots? Maybe so, but sometimes in life you gotta push the boundaries of civil disobedience in order to appreciate the things that are truly repulsive. This was not.
What happens when three sportswriters in the college football deep fryer of America go to an off-brand pro football game and sit in the cheap seats with real people? The answer is culinary history for the great city of Birmingham, Alabama, and some really funny side-looks by the parents of children.
Welcome to the heart of America, kiddos. It’s working at twice the speed of a healthy one.
Which is to say, kids, don’t try this at home. In fact, no one should try dunking hot dogs in cold beer at home and then eating them. Some things should only happen at live sporting events where the social customs of common decency are forgotten, or at least put on hold for a while.
Drinking before 8 a.m., for example, is something we only do at airports. The aggressive picking of nostrils at traffic lights. Disposing of mattresses.
Our lives are filled with contradictions and breaks in decorum. Heckling at umpires is OK. Shouting at bad drivers is somehow not. We can now add to the lists of situational acceptability chowing down on beer-kissed hot dogs at the game. It’s a beautiful expression of your self-worth, but I wouldn’t do it on your kid’s school field trip to the zoo.
Definitely do it on a first date, though. It’s the only way to be sure. If you dunk the dog and your date is down with it, then life just delivered you an ace on the river.
Listen, though, because there are rules. Dunking dogs is not some kind of midnight joyride where anything goes.
First, the hot dog can’t have anything on it. Just plain, wiener and bun. Raw dogs or nothing. If you order a chili cheese dog and a beer, then that’s great. Just consume them separately. Don’t ruin your beer, you silly potato.
Second, the glizzy goes in the beer for two quick dunks, and that’s it. The buns shouldn’t come out fully soaked and falling apart. Don’t give it a bath. Don’t let it sit in there and shave. The hot dog should still be hot when you eat it. The beer should still be cold.
Third, no sharing. Everyone gets their own dog. Don’t be weird. This isn’t some kind of freak show.
Four, you’re not Joey Chestnut, and this isn’t an eating contest. What I’m saying is, save room for beer.
On a personal note, I just want to add that Birmingham’s new Protective Stadium has significantly upgraded the hot dogs compared to the old Legion Field. Legion Field dogs, in the end, were an embarrassment to the city. I hate to say it, but we all know it’s true. Birmingham is a hot dog town, and Birmingham knows the difference.
Protective Stadium’s hot dogs are a reflection of a great food town, and so enjoy them anyway you like. This week, USL soccer club Birmingham Legion FC (2-2-3) plays Charleston Battery (1-1-4) at 7 p.m. on Wednesday. The USFL has two games on Saturday and two more on Sunday. The Birmingham Stallions (2-0) play the New Orleans Breakers (2-0) at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
Dunk those dogs, America. It tastes like freedom.
Final rule. Definitely video your first drunk-dog experience. We need proof. The world needs a few more heroes. For one night, we pushed the limits of gastric achievement, and we felt great pride in our courage.
Joseph Goodman is a columnist for the Alabama Media Group, and author of “We Want Bama: A season of hope and the making of Nick Saban’s ‘ultimate team’”. You can find him on Twitter @JoeGoodmanJr.