Veggie menu eases sacred concerns?

tigers_opening_day2_2007My favorite quote coming out of the controversy over the Detroit Tigers’s decision to schedule their home opener during the time Jesus Christ is believed to have hung on the cross on Good Friday goes as quoted in The Detroit News:

“Nobody is saying baseball isn’t big but Good Friday is really big,” said the Rev. Ed Vilkauskas, 62, pastor of Old St. Mary Church in Greektown. “It’s 2,000 years old.”

Yes, a 2,000 year tradition versus an afternoon baseball game. Credit goes to the News for having the best coverage of the outrage. See here for coverage from The Detroit Free Press.

From a theological perspective, reporter Francis X. Donnelly accurately lays out the even more problematic challenge of starting the game at 1 p.m. along with a nice description of how scheduling this game at this time was an offense for Tigers fans:

Even more galling is the time of the game, 1 p.m.

In the last hours of his life, Jesus hung from a cross on Good Friday from noon to 3 p.m., and many devout Christians attend church services at that time.

Quiet contemplation is what’s sought. The drunken debauchery of Opening Day is not.

“It’s like Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday rolled into one,” said Michael Ochab, 47, a Hamtramck Catholic who will skip Opening Day for the first time in 20 years. “I couldn’t believe they had it that day.”

As a side note, you also have to appreciate Donnelly’s colorful writing style.

The article also appropriately notes that fans won’t be able to consume hot dogs. But along with the Free Press coverage, the Detroit Tigers PR Department managed to spin the idea that there other options for fans who for one reason or another, decide to attend the game despite the sacred tradition but also get hungry during the game and have consciences strong enough to prevent them from savoring a Ball Park Frank.

Here is an earlier version of the Free Press coverage:

That’s the day for somber reflection, personal sacrifice, church services that run from noon to 3 p.m. and a no-meat pledge, which doesn’t lend itself to downing a hot dog or two at the game.

But the Tigers point out that there are plenty of vegetarian offerings on the concession menus. Last year, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals even named Comerica Park one of the Top 10 vegetarian friendly stadiums in baseball.

That’s some nice Tiger public relations spin, but too bad the reporters couldn’t have pointed out the irony of the idea that the vegetarian menu could come into play to limit any guilt fans may have had for attending opening day on Good Friday. As a later version of the Free Press coverage points out, such cases do exist, but apparently the only good options are peanuts and popcorn.

Image of Tigers opening day in 2007, viewed from section 326, used under a Wikimedia Commons license.

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  • Judy Harrow

    I don’t know how to tell you this, but not everybody in the Detroit area is a Christian. Those for whom Good Friday is an important religious holiday will be at church, not the ball game. There’s no reason to impose that on the rest of the population. At worst, this is a stupid business decision, certainly not an “outrage.” If enough of their fan base chooses to stay away from the game, the management will bear the obvious economic consequences of their poor planning.

  • dpulliam

    I concur Judy that it’s not an “outrage.” My use of that term was supposed to be a slight nod towards the recent overuse of the term. I think there a few reasons to ever be “outraged” in sports unless of course it’s a certain brawl.

  • Jerry

    Judy’s great point underlies that this is clearly one of those stories that begs for a follow-up so that we all know whether Christians decided that worship is more important than baseball.

  • MichaelV

    Judy, I don’t think the articles suggested that everyone in the Detroit area is Christian. I suspect many of the 1.3 million area Catholics mentioned (and some other Christians) would be interested in this story, and some will find the decision to have Opening Day at that particular time to be in poor taste. Do Detroit area non-Christians have any particular desire for the game to be at 1 pm on April 10th?

  • Chris Bolinger

    Not sure what other options the Tigers had. As the News article mentions, playing the game in the evening would have risked below-freezing temperatures, and postponing the game to April 6 would have caused a conflict with the Final Four at nearby Ford Field. The Tigers PR organization, however, was asleep at the switch on this one. The bad PR serves ‘em right. Go Tribe!

  • MichaelV

    One more thing – I wonder if there are any Catholic employees at Comerica Park. That might have made for an interesting quote that would add another dimension to the story.

  • Chris Bolinger

    Sorry…should have said “switching” instead of “postponing”.

  • Martha

    I’d agree with Judy that it’s too harsh on the sports team to accuse them of “insults” or whatever. If this is the best time and date on the calendar, that’s their reason, not bias or anti-religious sentiment.

    If your conscience will let you attend entertainment on Good Friday, then it’s up to you. If you’d prefer to attend the services, then go to them. It’s not actually a Holy Day of Obligation, so you’re not required to be in church.

    Splitting the difference by attending the game but observing the Fast and Abstinence laws is probably a good compromise :-)

  • Harris

    Then again,
    this is the Tigers, we’re talking about, after all. After last season…

    Detroit sports fans have been in a sort of fast for some time, now.

  • hoosier

    ““It’s like Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday rolled into one,” said Michael Ochab.”

    I’m more interested in the journalistic ethics of running such a quote, which does not exactly flatter Mr. Ochab. One thing’s for certain, though, if he decides to attend the game, he can eat peanuts and popcorn, or a Ball Park frank, which is like a wiener and a hot dog rolled into one!

  • Michael in ArchDen

    The Colorado Rockies are also having their home opener on Apr. 10. I haven’t seen anything in the Post, yet.

    The first-ever Rox home opener in 1993 was also on Good Friday.

    I find I can skip the drunken debauchery once a decade. ;-)

  • Martha

    Good point, Harris. Depending upon the result of the opening game, there could well be plenty of mortification, repentance, and sorrowful commemoration of suffering taking place within the stadium at the third hour :-)

  • Vince

    I have a feeling the Tigers are going to need all the help they can get this season, it might not be the greatest idea to annoy the Almighty.

    But seriously, has anyone in the media attempted to get either Archbishop Vigneron’s or any of the Catholic Tigers players opinion on this controversy? I’d be very interested to hear what they had to say.

  • Ira Rifkin

    Remember Sandy Koufax!

  • MichaelV

    hoosier, I read right past that quote without thinking about it. But in Mr. Ochab’s (and my) defense, when I think of Mardi Gras I think of New Orleans: beads and parades and nsfw costumes. When I think of Fat Tuesday I think of the Detroit-area Polish traditions: huge lines at Hamtramck bakeries and bar hopping and, yes, some awareness of Lent. So I can understand why, in the midst of his hyperbole, he might make that distinction.

  • MichaelV

    Here’s some more on this:

    I’m curious how common this is – anyone remember this sort of thing from past years?

  • Jan

    Compassion for the billions of farm animals in factory farms should be practiced every day of the year. We should not be supporting animal abuse – it demeans God’s compassion for His animals and our actions speak louder than our doctrine of kindness to animals.
    “Eating Mercifully” a wonderful video by the HSUS has religious people interviewed (and others) who teach compassion. Every church should watch this as well as “Christian Concern for All God’s Creatures” and “A Sacred Duty” (a Jewish perspective on the environment and animals who are one of the biggest polluters).
    God’s Creatures Ministry
    Catholic Concern for Animals-USA

  • Julia

    The thing about Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday:

    Mardi Gras means Fat Tuesday, literally, in French

    That’s why it’s so funny to roll them into one – they are already one and the same thing.

  • MichaelV


    I know it’s a literal translation, but even so I think it’s plausible that for some people Fat Tuesday and Mardi Gras bring different images to mind. Think party vs. fiesta. So maybe the person who wrote the story made the same technical mistake as the guy, or maybe the writer just understood what the guy probably meant.

  • cnb

    Proposing a vegetarian alternative is beside the point: Good Friday is a day of fasting.

  • Ira Rifkin

    Even more to the point: Remember Hank Greenberg!