Sam Venable 

Department of Irony

I am going to lay an important baseball statistic on you. This number is much more significant than runs, hits, errors, ERA, RBI and other boring fluff that clutters the sports pages between April and the World Series.

It’s 21,357,316.

That’s the estimated number of stadium hot dogs fans munch during a typical major league season, according to the Washington, D.C.-based National Hot Dog and Sausage Council.

I’m intrigued by the word “estimated” in the previous paragraph.

If the hot dog council had tossed out rough figures like “21.3 million” or “between 21 and 22 million” in its report, I wouldn’t have blinked an eye. But to specifically cite 21,357,316 and then call it an “estimate” makes me think these people are chasing their dawgs with high-octane colas.

I know the food industry uses high-tech monitoring techniques to chart consumption of its products. But what happens if, say, a fan at Yankee Stadium orders a concession stand hot dog, then abruptly changes his mind and requests a hamburger instead? Does this mean someone deep inside the hog dog council’s research bunker suddenly starts cursing and banging his desk because the “estimate” has now been reduced to 21,357,315?

But let us not quibble over details. Quite the contrary. I wish to lavish praise on the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council for its tips on dog-dining etiquette.

High time, if you ask me. In a perfect world, infants would emerge from the womb with certain knowledge wound into their DNA: how to build a snowman, how to pick their noses, how to eat a hot dog, important stuff like that.

But no. We have heathens in our midst who never were taught the art of doing dogs, and society has suffered tremendously.

You can find the entire condiment list at www.hot-dog.org. But one entry is of such importance, I must bring it to your attention: “Don’t use ketchup on your hot dog after the age of 18.”

Amen, brothers and sisters! Preach on! This advice should be adopted as federal law and printed on all hot dog packages.

I speak with personal shame in this regard. My dear wife—we got hitched 49 years ago this month—has many sterling qualities, but there is one serious flaw in her character. She puts the red stuff on her hot dog. Yes, I would welcome any prayers you might offer up for her salvation.

Alas, an alleged expert does the same. There’s a new cookbook on the market: “Haute Dogs,” by native Texan Russell Van Kraayenburg. It features 47 recipes for dogs, 15 of which include ketchup as an acceptable condiment. Blasphemy!

If Davy Crockett had known such heresy would emerge from Texas, he never would’ve gone to the Alamo.

Sam Venable is an author, entertainer, and columnist for the Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel. He may be reached at .