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How Late Is Too Late To Get Popcorn At A Baseball Game?

The Phillie Phanatic spills popcorn
Jeremy Drey/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

I felt a jolt of anxiety while watching the end of Astros-Giants on Tuesday night, and it had nothing to do with the unsettling proportions of 6-foot-11 relief pitcher Sean Hjelle. While Hjelle worked with two outs in the top of the eighth, the camera cut to a pair of fans appearing to make their way back to their seats after a concessions purchase. One had a visually striking treat that I could not identify, but I was mainly focused on the other fan with two boxes of popcorn.

"Popcorn time," said Giants analyst Mike Krukow. But was it, really? I do not mean to pick on these particular people, who I hope had fun despite the home team's loss. But I worried about them. A box of popcorn isn't something you can scarf down all at once, like a hot dog. And in the pitch clock era, getting a box with 10 outs remaining is a serious risk. What if you have leftover popcorn?!

The remainder of the game took about 20 minutes, which is a reasonable amount of time to finish a box of popcorn. But just the threat of getting hurried out of the ballpark while still being responsible for uneaten corn stressed me out. My conversation this morning with my colleague and editor, Barry Petchesky, only increased my concern. Barry said he could let eighth-inning popcorn slide because "it’s the one ballpark food that’s not crazy to take to go." This baffled me. Eating popcorn while walking is a choking and a littering hazard. Eating popcorn in a car is one of the most perverted behaviors I can imagine. Eating popcorn on public transit would likely leave a mess behind for your fellow passengers.

I made my points. Barry responded, "It's in a container. It's not messy." He's wrong. I can't find it now, but I constantly think about a tweet I remember seeing that says, basically, "It's impossible to eat popcorn without looking like you're trying to win a popcorn-eating contest." Check out the Phillie Phanatic, baseball's greatest role model, having trouble with his popcorn at a game in the image up top. Looks pretty messy to me! It's tough to judge how many pieces you can get in one grab. A few of them miss your mouth and succumb to gravity. And unless you're a sicko eating it with a utensil, you're going to end up with buttery fingers. As someone who has made strategic decisions about when to purchase or eschew popcorn at a movie theater, I mentioned a soft pretzel as a cleaner option. Barry disagreed, because "the salt falls off."

I took the question of popcorn timing to the group and mostly got indirect responses. Kelsey said that popcorn is a "basketball snack." Ray said, ominously, "I've been told how long ballpark popcorn is determined to be sellable, and it's not good." I will make the judgement: Don't let anyone stop you from snacking to your heart's content, but the seventh-inning stretch is informally last call. Make your decision before then.

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