May 04, 2004

A Cornucopia of Competitive Eating

After coming across a number of articles in the last few weeks about competitive eating and its participants, I decided to do a little looking into this burgeoning phenomenon. Some of the articles are a little older, but the guy at the top of the heap in the oldest article, Takeru Kobayashi, is still at number one so it all seemed pretty relevant and the article is a good place to start before reading any of the others as it's fairly comprehensive.

I think we've probably all heard of the Nathan's Famous world hot dog eating contest held at Coney Island each year on the Fourth of July, which is where Mr. Kobayashi set the current record of 50 1/2 hot dogs and buns in 12 minutes in 2002. And since I watch a lot of shows on the Food Network, I often see segments on various pie-eating and chicken wing-eating competitions, many at festivals devoted to certain food. But I had no idea that there was such a range of foods that were eaten competitively! (Check out the list of records and see if there aren't more there than you expected.)

Now to the faces that are seeking fame and fortune by stuffing themselves. Some are big. Some are really big. Some are small. Some (though few) are women. Some have had movies made about them and their mothers get interviewed and asked some really insightful questions! Some are small-town folk trying to live up to their reputations. Some are famous faces from the past who are in it either for fun or for a shot at seeing their name in print again.

Is it a sport? Since ESPN covers it, it could be either sport or entertainment. Is it rigged or are people cheating? Who knows. But then, given the state of sport today, the kind of controversy it sparks almost gives it more credibility. All I know is that after reading so much about it and trying to imagine myself competing in any of these events, even for foods I love, I'm torn between admiration and revulsion. But I bet I could take on the cops if it were eating Krispy Kremes!