Good journalism requires extensive knowledge of one's area of focus, an unsparing eye for detail and the constant cultivation of new information sources. But sometimes, it's just about getting lucky.
Lucky is how I felt during Friday evening's Akron RubberDucks game, when I stumbled upon the scoop of a lifetime. In a concourse-level conference room at Canal Park, I was given an exclusive first look at the Akron RubberDucks' "Return of the King Burger." Created in honor of LeBron James' return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, this four-ounce burger is topped with creamy Boursin cheese, a king crab blend and "wine and gold" coleslaw featuring champagne vinaigrette.
Like a wedding cake or a communion wafer, this is a deeply symbolic food offering. The king crab represents LeBron's status as basketball's reigning monarch, while the wine and gold slaw -- named after the Cavaliers' classic uniform scheme -- includes champagne because, in Northeast Ohio, it's time to celebrate.
The "Return of the King Burger" retails for $8.50, or approximately .00004 percent of LeBron's salary for the 2014-15 NBA season (if he was in a generous mood, he could use his earnings for the season to purchase 2,538,047 of them). RubberDucks food and beverage director Brian Manning is the mastermind behind this burger, and in much the same way that LeBron went to Lee Jenkins to break the story of his return to Cleveland, Manning came to me with the story of a hamburger.
Naysayers might be inclined to point that out I didn't have any sort of burger scoop whatsoever. Between the time Manning revealed it to me and the time this article appeared, the RubberDucks issued a press release about the "Return of the King" burger and then began selling it at Canal Park (it debuted on Saturday). Furthermore, they might remark that I, as an individual afflicted with celiac disease and therefore unable to eat any gluten-containing foods, have no business breaking any sort of burger-related news whatsoever. Isn't this akin to a diabetic on the doughnut beat? To them I say, "Go ahead and sling your arrows, but you can't take this away from me. I, Benjamin Hill, a consummate journalist, was there first."
Later in the evening, after having had the chance to be first, I had the chance to be last.
In the bottom of the seventh, some four innings after becoming the first civilian to lay eyes on the "Return of the King" burger, I served as the goose in a "World's Largest Game of Duck, Duck, Goose" record attempt. For those keeping score at home, the current Guinness World Record holder is a 2,135 person game organized by a high school in Missouri.
In this case, the question of "Why attempt to play the world's largest game of Duck, Duck, Goose?" isn't answered by the standard Minor League Baseball response of "Why not?" In Akron, this is the season of reasons. This year marks the first season of the RubberDucks' name (a nod to Akron's status as "The Rubber City"), and the team is reinforcing the switch by referencing waterfowl as much as they possibly can.
RubberDucks promotions manager Christina Shisler said that the record attempt came about during an offseason "duck brainstorming session."
"Duck, Duck, Goose came to mind, and what's more fun than that?" she said. "I picked a date here in July when we'd have a good crowd and it turned out to be a sellout."
The game of Duck, Duck, Goose started after the visiting Erie SeaWolves were retired in the top of the second inning. Then, a young fan in the right field Tiki Terrace (a new addition to Canal Park) tapped the person sitting to his left and yelled "Duck!" The game then slowly played out in a clockwise direction over the next five innings, largely supervised by energetic but aurally overmatched intern Kaitlyn Osborne. Straining to be heard over the perpetual din of the stadium sound system, she instructed each section about the game in progress and exhorted them to continue.
As the record attempt reached its final stages, I donned a goose outfit comprised of brown leggings, a zip-up, white-feathered one-piece and, of course, an anatomically disproportionate goose head. Navigating my way through the crowd, I high-fived children and gently shrugged off photo requests en route to a front-row seat down the third base line. RubberDucks mascot Webster was the penultimate participant in the game, and upon being tagged he then placed a feathered hand (do ducks have hands?) atop my head.
The appearance of the goose meant that the game was over. There was nothing left to do but jump onto the field, hug, high five and dance with Webster in exorbitant exultation. Twice in one night, I had been a part of Northeast Ohio sports history. Now where's my Pulitzer?