MILWAUKEE – A Good Friday home opener posed a spiritual dilemma for some Catholic baseball fans in Milwaukee, who had to decide whether to abstain from eating meat as their religion dictates or to indulge in one of Brewers' fans most cherished traditions.
Brats and burgers fresh off the grill are tailgate staples at plenty of stadiums. But people take their meat especially seriously at Milwaukee's Miller Park. Here, the Racing Sausages — people who race in the middle of the sixth inning while dressed as bratwurst, chorizo, hot dog, Italian sausage and Polish sausage — are one of the most popular attractions.
"It's Miller Park, Opening Day — I think Jesus would turn the other cheek on this one," joked Joey Curtin, a Catholic and a student at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, who grilled up a heaping stack of brats and hot dogs with friends.
When St. Patrick's Day fell on a Friday during Lent in 2006, dozens of bishops nationwide granted a special one-day dispensation that allowed Catholics to enjoy their corned beef with a clear conscience.
Not this time around. Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki instead released a statement reminding Catholics of the solemnity of Good Friday.
"As much as we love the Brewers, unlike Jesus, they didn't die for your sins," he said. "With regard to beer and brats on Good Friday, let's just say that's why God created the 3-game series."
Some Catholics said they didn't need any reminder. Connie Nyman, a 64-year-old Catholic school teacher from Waukesha, ate tuna fish and shrimp at her tailgate party.
"Good Friday is a sacred day. If ever someone should sacrifice in remembrance of what the Lord gave us, it's that day," she said.
Catholicism teaches that Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and the other Fridays of Lent in the weeks before Easter are days when the faithful must not eat meat or meat products, and Good Friday is one of the holiest days of Christian calendar.
"It was an easy decision for me," said Ed Smith, 45, of Delafield. "I see it (abstaining from meat) as a small sacrifice for the gifts we've been given."
Others were a bit more conflicted — if not deterred.
Dave Coenen, a state biologist from Wausau, was with a group that served bratwurst and elk sausage, as well as shrimp for those who wanted to abstain. Coenen knew he'd go for the brats, so he said the rosary on his drive to Milwaukee and brought an Easter lily for the tailgating table for good measure.
"You know, if God's going to keep me out of heaven for eating bratwurst on Opening Day, so be it," he said.
He added, however, that he planned to go to Mass on Saturday or Sunday to seek forgiveness.
Dinesh Ramde can be reached at dramde(at)ap.org.