September 4, 2007

Mug Shots: Madison’s got game

We ended last month’s weekend stay in Madison, Wis. (population 208,000) with baseball and beer. The Madison Mallards team of the Northwoods League is stocked with amateurs, unpaid collegiate players who room with local families and perform community work when away from the diamond. They use wooden, not aluminum, bats.    In 2007, the 7,000-seat Duck Pond, Madison’s home park, drew 210,000 fans for 32 home dates. We joined a sell-out crowd on fan appreciation night and sat in the Great Dane Brewing Company Duck Blind, a riotous warren of picnic tables, bleacher seats and elevated platforms presumably designed by the Swiss Family Robinson, where $25 tickets entitled us to unlimited (!) ballpark food, draft beer and soft drinks.    While ample quantities of fizzy yellow swill remain available for consumption by the flavor impaired, the beer selection is aptly balanced by a half-dozen local microbrews from Great Dane and the German-inspired Capital Brewing.    Significantly, Great Dane’s sponsorship agreement graciously permits mass-market swill to be sold alongside local craft beer — in an area sponsored by a local craft brewery. That’s seldom the case in reverse. Multinational mega-breweries typically pursue beer placement with the express intent of excluding competition and denying any measure of genuine choice for the consumer.    Just like at Louisville Slugger Field, where management routinely succumbs to a chain-think, pocket-stuffing Philistinism that deprives discerning fans of the best aspects of locally based cultural diversity in beer and food, a form of lowest-common-denominator hypocrisy that contradicts the team’s stated aim of providing Louisville fans with locally based baseball and a local entertainment alternative to the higher-priced major leagues.    The Madison Mallards’ brain trust, itself a progressive entity like the city of Madison as a whole, actively participates in shaping its market, not just pandering to it — something that continues to elude our Louisville Bats.Roger Baylor is co-owner of the New Albanian Brewing Co. in New Albany. Visit www.potablecurmudgeon.com for more beer.