Confessions of an arena burrito-chucker
A few weeks ago a man sued the Kansas City Royals, claiming he was hit in the eye last season by a hot dog thrown by the team mascot. Which begs the question: What, exactly, goes into hurling foodstuffs to a hungry sports crowd?
On the condition of anonymity, a current NHL burrito-tosser spoke to Page 2:
Admit it: Throwing burritos to clamoring fans is a little bit of a power trip, isn't it?
"It can sure go to your head. [You go out there], and it's like a playoff game where you're the best player on the team. People go nuts. Sure, you'll have a few people here and there who won't get up from their seats, but most are definitely more excited than any other part of the game. Picture Mardi Gras in New Orleans."
What do fans say?
"It's mostly inaudible cheering and yelling. Some people plead with you -- 'I'm hungry,' 'I'm a season-ticket holder,' 'I'll do anything.'"
"A guy once offered to drop his pants."
Does that work?
"The only thing that will get you is a personal escort to the door. Some fans can be pretty insulting, especially when they don't get a burrito. Some threaten you. It can be intimidating the first time you do it: hundreds of fans in your face, vying for your attention, some grabbing you, all while you're trying to juggle several burritos."
How do you choose where to throw burritos?
"The sections are preselected by our marketing people. We used to be able to choose sections the day of the game. That was more fun, because we would have friends at games and want to make sure they got something."
If I'm not your friend, but I'm in a selected section, how can I get you to throw a burrito my way?
"It all happens so fast. You don't have much time to pick people out and throw to them. Jumping around, cheering and showing team spirit helps. Having a kid with you doesn't hurt, either."
How far can you toss a burrito?
"Imagine a Nerf football. I could throw one a couple of sections [deep], but we have to stay in camera range, which means sticking to the assigned sections."
Have you thrown anything else into the crowd?
"Pizza, T-shirts, plastic pucks."
How does that compare to throwing a burrito?
"There's nothing like throwing a burrito."
Are there any hazards to throwing a burrito?
"Yes. We call it the 'squirter.' Sometimes they leak when not wrapped tightly, so you'll see a trail of juices coming out of the foil as the burrito flies overhead. Women are not happy campers when that happens."
Do you get any training?
"None. That's why you see some people throw touchdowns and others fumble. The staff basically says, 'You're tossing burritos today; grab six and get out there.'"
Is a man ever the same after shooting a CO2 gun?
"No. It's like a smaller version of a bazooka. It has a pretty strong kickback. There should be a club -- 'I survived the CO2 gun.'"
Have you ever shot burritos out of the CO2 gun?
"We don't want to clean the gun or get stuff all over us every time we use it. So no. Not that we haven't thought about it, though."
How long have the burritos been sitting around before you toss them?
"The timing is crucial. You have to run where they make them, give them a 15-minute heads-up, hope they aren't bombarded with customers, then run the finished burritos to the right section."
Have you ever eaten the burritos?
"I have, when we've run out of time to throw them all or the mascot missed a couple in the box. And I have another confession to make: We stopped tossing burritos a season ago -- they were messy and fans sometimes threw them on the ice, which didn't go over well with the NHL. Now we toss T-shirts wrapped in foil with a burrito coupon inside. Fans still go nuts, but I toss and run away faster now -- before they realize they have to go get the burritos themselves."
Patrick Hruby is a freelance writer and ESPN.com contributor. Contact him at PatrickHruby.net.