No single American business is more averse to change than major league baseball.
The game is so inflexible that two of the sport's greatest hitters - Shoeless Joe Jackson of the infamous Chicago Black Sox who played a century ago and Pete Rose, the all-time hit leader who starred in our lifetime, have been denied entrance into the Hall of Fame because of sports betting incidents.
Another example of how slow the sport adapts to change is the instant replay, something professional football has been using for 27 years. Many fans are upset since major league baseball wants to use replays solely for home run calls and not use them to overrule missed umpire calls that can affect game outcomes. Last month, Major League Baseball announced that it will expand its video review process for the 2014 season, granting managers one challenge over the first six innings and two after the seventh inning until the end of the game.
Regardless of grudgingly slow it moves, the structure of baseball is built on a very rigid foundation. Changes in the sport are not typically measured in months or even years, but in decades.
That's why purists of the game are shocked to see one of the time-honored traditions at the ballpark - how we order order and receive our snacks - now being challenged. Carnival-barking vendors have been part of the ballpark experience for over a century, and the "peanuts and Cracker Jack" lyrics to the song "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" are preserved in baseball lore.
Granted, we're not quick to give a pass to all vendors, especially when hygiene is involved. Earlier this summer, a roving snow cone salesman at Houston's Minute Made Park was fired after a fan used his cellphone to film the vendor setting down a tray of the icy snacks on the floor of a bathroom stall while he sat down to use the toilet during an Astros game.
That kind of episode would drive most of us, not to mention a germaphobe like Jerry Seinfeld, mad. The "Seinfeld" show even built one of its episodes around a restaurateur named Poppy, who Jerry said, was "a little sloppy" when it came to his personal hygiene practices inside the restaurant bathroom.
But back to the subject of baseball's technological evolution. Today, some 43 big league ballparks are offering phone app that allows you order right from your seat and notifies you when your calorie feast is ready to be picked up. Defenders of the food distribution process say it is a natural transition, given the number of mobile devices.
On the surface, the service looks to simply target the hungry or thirsty fans but not only does the consumer get to see the whole game uninterrupted but the concessionaire benefits as well. The technology offers crucial data to business operations and concessionaires, providing information on customer demographics as well as helping to profile consumer habits.
This trend, however, does make it harder for adults to preach to the kids at home that their obsession with ipods, iphones and computer games can promote laziness. Now, there's no reason for adults at the ballpark to move about once their butts are parked in the seat.
The one ballpark experience that technology can't currently improve on is the bathroom visit. When nature calls while you're at the ballpark, just hope that there isn't a Poppy-like individual in charge of rest room operations.
By Jim Zbick