The Rogers Centre is beginning to show its age—yet despite its advancing years, it’s still lacking what we’d call “authentic” ballpark atmosphere. Which is probably inevitable, since the Stadium Formerly Known as SkyDome is a sorta-generic, poured-concrete monstrosity with a cool-looking ceiling; when compared with some of baseball’s classic stadiums, its shortcomings are plainly evident.
Given the circumstances, the Rogers Centre’s employees are vital to making a baseball game in Toronto a more enjoyable experience. One of them is a beer vendor named Wayne McMahon. If you’ve ever watched a baseball game from the 100-level, then you’ve almost certainly encountered McMahon: he’s the greying, sixty-one year-old vendor who practically hisses the phrase, “IIIIICE! COOOOOLD! BEEEEEEEEERRR!” But McMahon is more than an old dude with his own spin on an age-old catchphrase: he’s also a genuinely nice guy. Meet him twice, and he’ll remember you forever; we know this because…uh, let’s just say we know this because, okay?
Last week, however, McMahon was fired from for allegedly failing to ID a twenty-two year-old customer who turned out to be a mystery shopper. As he explained (albeit somewhat ungrammatically) in his Facebook group, “This person was seating [sic] 16 seets from the Isle and it was one of the Isle people that told me to send him the two beer.” Something about this seems not quite right. We know the Rogers Centre beer vendors are supposed to ID anyone who looks thirty years of age or younger…but really, is there that much difference between twenty-two and thirty these days? Besides, the buyer was actually of age. We don’t pretend to know all the relevant facts, but we suspect there’s more to the story than meets the eye.
McMahon’s firing occurred sometime last week; last Saturday it was actually covered in (of all places) the Arts section of The Globe and Mail. Meanwhile, the campaign to get him reinstated is well underway. A Facebook group, one of the surest signs of political engagement circa 2008, has over 2,000 members; its administrators are planning on delivering it, old skool petition-style, to Aramark, the organization which runs Rogers Centre concessions. McMahon himself appeared on MTV Canada yesterday to plead his case. That a beer vendor for a local sports team could turn into a cause célèbre might seem strange—but we would argue it’s also testament to a fan base which is in search of something real. Until Aramark in general and the Toronto Blue Jays in particular come to grips with this fact, they’re dooming baseball fans to a second-class experience. Who’s next? The drummer?
Photo by Andrea Kremer.