Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked


April 12, 2007

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Jeff Luckey thinks he's found the answer to an age-old question.

Vincent Valk

Nine years ago, it was introduced as a way to avoid waits for the urinal while enjoying glasses of beer with the big game. The Stadium Pal was heavily covered by the press, generally with enthusiasm or ridicule. Yet among the external catheters in circulation—barely one thousand have been sold per year—about half aren't getting within sniffing distance of the playing fields. They're being strapped on by incontinent men.

Jeff Luckey
"I saw men going in sinks, in cups, in trash cans, in the corners. It was the worst time I ever had at a sporting event."

Jeff Luckey

That's a mundane adaptation of Stadium Pal creator Jeff Luckey's original vision. Nine years ago, while attending a Bengals game in his native Cincinnati, "I found myself leaving to drain the beer I was drinking every five minutes," Luckey, now a 36-year-old warehouse manager in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, tells Gelf. "Needless to say, I was missing much of the game." Apparently, he wasn't the only one—"I saw men going in sinks, in cups, in trash cans, in the corners," Luckey tells Gelf. "It was the worst time I ever had at a sporting event."

Out of urinary urgency was born this sales pitch: It's the bottom of the ninth with runners on second and third. One out, David Wright at the plate, you're up in the $10 seats with your face painted orange and blue and a sign that says "The Wright Stuff." It's a crucial moment—the game, maybe even the season, is on the line. But all you can think about is going to the bathroom and the sound of that yellowish stream hitting the side of the urinal. You have to go so bad it makes your head hurt.

You have two options. The first, of course, is to get up and go to the bathroom; thus missing the crucial at-bat. The second is to pee your pants. Pee your pants you say? Yes, now you can pee your pants at sporting events—or anywhere, really—so long as you have strapped on The Stadium Pal, an external male catheter. A condom attached to a tube attached to a pouch taped to your calf, it's the cornerstone product of Luckey's

Though the Stadium Pal is marketed mostly to sports fans, its website notes that it has "more uses than you can shake a stick at," including fishing and hunting, rehabilitation, and extended driving times. It has proven especially useful for sufferers of urinary incontinence, a fairly common condition in which an individual has difficulty controlling his or her bladder (the Stadium Pal's first spinoff, the Stadium Gal, is a comparable device designed for women). At first "I had no idea that people would be buying it for incontinence purposes," Luckey says; yet, by his own estimate, roughly half of the 10,000 Stadium Pals sold since 1998 have been purchased for medical use. tallied about $100,000 in sales during 2006, according to Luckey. "Many men found out about it due to its unique name," he says. "Some even told me their doctors recommended it." While a spokesperson for the American Urological Association says she has never heard of the Stadium Pal or BioRelief, Luckey says, "It's a word of mouth thing."

Stadium Pal diagram

How the Stadium Pal works

Some uses venture into territory beyond the medical and playing fields. "We had one case," says Luckey, "where a senator in Texas used a Stadium Gal during a filibuster." Luckey, when asked which senator had such foresight, replies that he doesn't know off-hand and that the hard drive containing his sales files has been stolen—a fortuitous event (or a Luckey break, if you will) for the aforementioned senator's political career. (We're looking at you, Kay Bailey Hutchinson.), the company spawned by the Stadium Pal, has made incontinence into something of a business. It has only one employee—Luckey—and it uses warehouse space and servers provided by, Luckey's full-time employer, but it provides a variety of products geared towards its particular niche. In July 2005, at the advice of his boss, Luckey began selling, among other items, different kinds of catheters, dietary supplements, and electronic bidets (toilets that do the cleaning for you). His site also provides articles and information for those with urinary incontinence and incontinence-related issues. "It's a unique market," says Luckey. "We give people information on subjects they are afraid to ask about. I get a greater feeling of accomplishment when people come to the site and find information they can use [than when we sell our products]." It's not a bad fate for the Stadium Pal, a product that Sports Illustrated once took as a sign of the apocalypse and about which David Sedaris once wrote, "Wear it once and you'll need a solid month in order to fully recover."

Yet the Stadium Pal hasn't lost sight of its other core market—lazy sports fans. If half of the device's sales are for medical use, then the other half is mostly for what one could politely label as recreational use. The device's logo is in the shape of a pennant, and its website includes testimonials from sports fans. Even some of's other products are being sold to this reliably sedentary market. The Freedom Pak Seven, a smaller version of the Stadium Pal, has recently seen "a large number of sales to the Chicagoland area," according to Luckey. This spring, grieving Bears fans may now take solace in the fact that they can watch Kerry Wood hobble off the mound uninterrupted by nature.

"We had one case where a senator in Texas used a Stadium Gal during a filibuster."—Jeff Luckey
Hurrah for technology and all, but this writer remains skeptical. Call me old-fashioned, but those of us fortunate enough to be able to urinate in the proper, toilet-trained manner, ought to take advantage of our facilities and do so. Sure, some people have serious medical issues that affect their ability to urinate and, in that respect, the Stadium Pal and are filling a serious need. But sports fans already have to put up with the loud louts, the simpletons who call up Mike and the Mad Dog and whine about Jorge Posada and the Knicks as though the health of their first-born child is dependent upon such millionaires. We have fat guys starting fistfights over differences in team loyalty and people who still think bunting in the first inning with one man on and nobody out is good baseball strategy (don't get me started on that one). We have the Beerbelly—not a beer belly, the Beerbelly—a "stealth beverage system" that looks like a gut and allows its user to sneak his (or her, but presumably his) brew of choice into the ballpark and drink it through a tube. Can't you just see the Beerbelly unite with the Stadium Pal to create one giant, jock-tubular mess?

The next time I go to Shea I'll shudder at the thought of sitting next to a man drinking beer from one tube and then pissing into another. I, too, dislike bathroom lines and seven-dollar domestics, but loathe the day when they give way to a frat boy of the future with taped-on tubing to facilitate laziness.

Thankfully, that day remains fairly distant. Sports Illustrated's Rick Reilly attended a Dodger game this past summer in full lazy regalia, tricked out, as they say, with both a Beerbelly and a Stadium Pal. The Beerbelly was quite popular. However, as soon as he lifted the end of his pants to show his companions the Stadium Pal, they began to move away. I suppose I would've liked it had someone wondered aloud why anyone would want to walk around with a fake beer gut, but I'll take whatever concessions to civilization I can get. Spillage or no spillage, odor or no odor, even if it's true (as Jeff Luckey claims) that you don't notice the thing after 15 minutes, I'd still know that I'm urinating in my pants, an indulgence that I'd effectively quit, after much exertion, at around the age of two. When David Wright comes up in the bottom of the ninth with the game on the line, I'll just hold it in, thank you very much. Then I'll stand in line at the end of the game, just like everyone else. Or, if the line is too long, I can always go by the fence in the parking lot.

Vincent Valk

Vincent Valk is online editor for Chemical Week magazine.

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Article by Vincent Valk

Vincent Valk is online editor for Chemical Week magazine.

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