Columns - Commentary
Eating -Ever since curling found its way into the Olympics,
our concept of sport has so devolved that ESPN is now televising
darts. Call me old-fashioned, but when I turn on ESPN and people
are throwing darts, they had better be aiming at each other.
Where could they possibly go
from here? Steam room endurance? Tiddlywinks? ...
Answer: competitive eating.
ESPN now broadcasts four gorge-a-thons,
including Nathan's International Hot Dog Eating Contest, which
I recently watched with keen interest ... beside my barf bag.
Nathan's is sanctioned by the
International Federation of Competitive Eating (no, seriously),
which also handles, among other things, crab cake, baked beans,
butter-just-butter, spam, tiramisu, and -- brace yourself, PETA
-- cow brains.
At least with cow brains you
know what you're getting. Scientists still don't understand what
holds together a hot dog. Right now they are focusing on a reaction
between shoe polish and tripe.
Of course, one cannot talk
hot dogs without mentioning undisputed champion of the world,
Japan's greatest pride outside of Mount Fuji, Takeru "The
Tsunami" ... Kobayashi.
In terms of consecutive world
titles, you've got Lance Armstrong, Martina Navratilova, the
'59-'66 Boston Celtics, and Takeru Kobayashi, who not only wins
every year but often laps the competition (and by that I mean
lifts them up with his tongue).
Yet Koby could pass as a wrestler:
stony biceps, trim waist, that orange-blonde hair that looks
so natural on Japanese men. Certainly this wasn't the record-holder
for hot dogs, lobster rolls, hamburgers, bratwurst, and rice
IFOCE president George Shea,
who promotes his events the old-fashioned way -- in a straw hat
-- stomached my questions.
"We're seeing a changing
of the guard," he said. "The older, heavier eater is
being replaced by athletes like Koby."
Enter femme phenom Sonya Thomas,
who, for her Tinkerbell physique, has outscarfed 300-pound men
to win titles in tacos, ravioli, chicken nuggets, jambalaya,
and pulled pork sandwiches.
Having seen frankfurter sludge
ooze out of eaters' nostrils, I can only shudder at the thought
of pulled pork sandwich.
I had to get closer, but not
so close that I lost a finger.
"Crazy Legs" Conti
received me like a professor ... in dreadlocks. Conti has gobbled
his way onto "The Today Show," CNN, "The Sopranos,"
"Emeril," and "Good Morning America"; he
even beat David Letterman in an oyster-eating challenge (459
How does one eat 459 oysters
without spewing on national TV?
"The stomach can fill
up," said Legs, "but the mind never can."
I could just see Yoda training
Crazy Legs in some forgotten swamp: "Hmm, the bile strong
with this one is."
The Fine Art of Oinking Out
Every food poses it own challenge
(example: butter is made of butter), but hot dogs are eaten in
one of three ways: 1. The Solomon Method, breaking the dogs in
half; 2. Tokyo Style, eating wiener and bun separately; and 3.
Dunk 'n Dip, soaking the meat in what appears to be sewer water.
I'm not sure which method is
favored by Miss Manners.
By IFOCE policy, regurgitation
-- "remnants" -- amounts to disqualification. One of
Koby's records was stained by controversy over remnants, a clear-cut
cry for instant replay. - More...
Saturday PM - October 28, 2006