Panic at the Ballpark!

The Mariners Would Like You to Know That There’s No Reason to Fear Swine Flu at Safeco

But stay home if you have the sniffles, OK?

April 30, 2009

Sheesh, what a difference a day makes, huh? Yesterday afternoon, when I talked to Mike Colbrese, of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, about the possibility of temporarily shutting down prep sports until this swine flu nonsense dies down, no one in Washington was sick. Then all hell broke loose last night and continued to break looser this afternoon. Holy honey-baked pandemic, Batman! (And just like that, I’ll never look at another slab of spiral-cut ham the same way again.)

Anyway, now that we’re at Threat Level Pink, it only seemed appropriate to move up the sporting event totem pole to see how the Mariners are reacting to the outbreak. There is a home game tomorrow night, dammit! So … in the words of that creepy dude from Marathon Man, Is it safe? "Right now, we’ve gotten no indication from anyone that it’s not safe to congregate in public places," says Rebecca Hale, the M’s director of public information. "So for us, that means there’s no reason for us to be doing any extraordinary measures, as far as considering canceling games or anything like that."

Like Colbrese, she says the organization is staying in contact with the Department of Health and — to borrow a baseball cliché — taking things day-to-day. On the upside, this pork panic may just mean your friendly ballpark wiener vendor will pay closer attention to washing his hands before dishing out dogs. "We’re taking advantage of the heightened state of concern, and we are educating all our employees, including day-of-game staff, like ticket-takers and seating hosts and customer service representatives," Hale says. "When they’re here tomorrow before the game, we’ll make sure they’re all aware of the basic advice for good personal hygiene — covering your cough, frequent hand-washing. [ A brief editorial interjection: Seriously, why do grown men and women need to be reminded to cover their mouths when coughing or sneezing? Or to wash their hands every once in a while? If it weren’t for the fact that those kinds of knuckleheads could take us all down with them, I’d just advocate in favor of letting natural selection pick them off one by one. ] We’ll make sure they have access to hand sanitizer, if they don’t have ready access to soap and water." Feel better? No? Fine. If you’re truly terrified by the prospect of breathing potentially lethal air inside Safeco, you can exchange your tickets for a game at a later, presumably post-apocalyptic date, at which point you’ll probably have your pick of seats, if you’re still alive — just be sure you do it at least 24 hours in advance. "You can’t just not show up to a game and then call us and say, ‘Gee, I was afraid of the swine flu. I’d like to get a refund,’" Hale says. Or, you could just buck up, put on a surgical mask, and show up at the ballpark anyway. (Just remember to cheer louder, because that mask is going to dampen your voice.) Go Mariners!

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