Monday, July 05, 2010

Gluttons For Punishment

I enjoy celebrating Independence Day much the same way as I do New Year's Eve; I stay off the streets. The nation's birthday has become an annual orgy of mattress and auto sales, not to mention the charcoal and lighter fluid. Aside from visiting with family and friends, there's really no good reason to leave the air conditioning for outdoor activities now that the downtown fireworks display over the Mississippi River has been cancelled due to budget cuts. However, the amateur fireworks were so loud on my block that we had to sedate the dogs. After viewing the July 4th hot dog eating contest at Coney Island, live on ESPN, I thought I would need sedation myself.

This has got to be the only country in the world where some people go hungry, while others are "professional" eaters. But, who could object to a good old fashioned sausage eating contest that's been going on at Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Stand since 1916?  I can. The once good-time event has now gone big-time with the formation of the Major League Eating organization. They are the governing body that oversees all professional eating contests in the nation, under the auspices of the International Federation of Competitive Eating (IFOC). The MLE is looking towards global expansion, but they are constrained to places where they actually have food. Other than the U.S. and Japan, I think the International League is having trouble fielding a team in countries like Haiti or Bulgaria. And it's no longer merely hot dogs. In a year, there are over 80 major scheduled events, like the Krystal Square-Off and the Pizza Hut P'Zone Chow-lenge, with corporate sponsors as varied as Smirnoff Vodka and Netflix. The Coney Island competition was co-sponsored, appropriately, by Pepto Bismol. I like a Nathan's hot dog myself, just not 50 at once.

This years' contest was engulfed in controversy when former champion and world renowned eater Takeru Kobayashi refused to participate because of an "impasse" with Major League Eating. The Japanese challenger left the Mustard Belt up for the taking since the MLE wanted to bar him from participating in "outside competitions." This meant clear sailing for defending champ, Joey Chestnut, who out-gorged the rest of the field, winning by nine dogs plus buns. Without Kobayashi to spur him on, along with the 95 degree temperature, Chestnut fell far short of his own record of 68 dogs in ten minutes, devouring a mere 54 red- hots and half a bottle of Pepto. The real drama came after the event had ended, when Kobayashi, wearing a green "Free Kobi" T-Shirt, attempted to storm the stage during the award ceremony and was arrested and carted off by the police. The huge crowd of spectators chanted, "Let him eat" in unison, while The Who's "Teenage Wasteland" blared over the loud speakers. Just like professional wrestling, allow a league to take monopolistic control, bring in the corporate sponsors, and there goes your "sport."

In the end, the event looked more like the marathon dancers of the thirties; doing something unnatural and demeaning for the entertainment of the mob in the hope of winning the $10,000 grand prize. The "color commentators," who kept referring to the bingers as "athletes," reported that Joey Chestnut consumed 20,166 calories in 10 minutes while perfecting his technique of shoving two dogs in his mouth at once while doing a little jig to stretch his stomach lining. In his career as a professional eater, Chestnut has won over $200,000, three cars and a motorcycle. He's also eaten 10.5 pounds of macaroni and cheese in seven minutes, and 56 matzoh balls in one sitting, even though he didn't know what a matzoh was before the competition. While the other contestants looked for buckets, Chestnut waved the Mustard Belt aloft while drooling hot dog juice down the front of a T-Shirt covered in corporate logos like a race car driver. I couldn't decide which was more offensive; the mindless inhalation of massive amounts of food, or the corporate takeover of "the sport of competitive eating."

This Super Bowl of gluttony is a typically American spectacle that would be an occasion for mirth were it not for the fact that the gulf between the haves and the have-nots has never been greater since the Gilded Age of Robber Barons. But even then, the "in-your-face" attitude was subdued, lest the proletariat rise up and storm the suburbs. Major League Eating does nothing to help the nation's obesity epidemic, especially now that Tennessee has been ranked second in the country, only behind Mississippi, as the fattest state in the Union. There are many issues to blame, but there is no worse perpetrator in the enlarging of America than the fast-food restaurant chains. I sympathize with people who struggle with their weight, but lately it seems as if most have simply stopped the struggle. Exhibit A is the sandwich sold by KFC consisting of two fried chicken breasts filled with bacon and cheese, a heart attack available in the drive-thru, while products like the Triple Whopper are directly marketed to the poorest among us. Morbid obesity is so common here, the front pew in church looks like the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line.  Major League Eating seems sort of incongruous while the Memphis Food Bank is feeding over 186,000 people per year that otherwise would not have nourishing meals. Other than gluttony and sloth, there is a word that describes this big-money, "professional," eating circuit; disgusting.

15 comments:

Willard Morgan said...

It's about time the Professional Bulimics Association (PBA) stage their competition at the gates of General Foods and the like. I'd wear a rain suit and show up like at Gallagher performance. Unfortunately, 'fast food' makes addicts of those not going anywhere too fast
socially or economically.

Willard Morgan

Gregg said...

"Morbid obesity is so common here, the front pew in church looks like the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line."----I immediately fell down the tall stairs of a large involuntary unexpected smile.

You're delivery via the written word is becoming Bennyesque... (this being a large compliment.) Please live a long time.

SIREEN said...

When I got around those ribs yesterday I was so hot & excited & my fat cells got so horny that I started sweating profusely- like Adam Lambert @ a corn dog eating contest! Now you know how much I love our president & his dear wife Michelle but they have become fat pinchers. Not only are they controling our thermostats like my Uncle Anal- they annoyingly pull up our shirts & pinch our baby fat! They are going to be taxing our fat asses literally. Taxing our fast foods & our malt liquors & shit! If he don't watch it...Barach Obama is going to be a one term skinny ass president! Now they are going to call it a sin tax as if gluttony was a sin or something. The King Maker herself-Oprah Winfrey knows what's happening! She is eating as much as she can as fast a she can before this fat tax comes the law of the land! Hell! That's why she is retiring ...to escape embarrassment. Help us Jesus! It is just pathetic! Yours truly! SIREEN

Anonymous said...

As they Bard once wrote, "me thinks you doth protest too much" ha ha... As for the have vs. half-knots, well, let them eat fois gras is my answer to that! Anybody can fork up the cost of America's finest hot dogs. Not to complain though.. I hear that in some posh Beverly Hills bistros, a naked dog can run you $7.50. Ain't this country great? Happy 4th everybody... there's something for everyone in this here U.S. of A !!....
z

Father Farken said...

Another Masterpiece! You are definitely the King of the Blogasphere my brother! You know what's funny? I just downed a Sam's Club size of peanut butter while reading your blog. Could've been a contender! The Peace of the lord! Father Farken

Your Sis said...

Carbs and fast food are cheap and filling. That's why there's so much obesity among poor people. I think the gluttonous professional eaters should donate some of their winninngs to a food bank. In fact, you can donate too. Go to www.midsouthfoodbank.org. You'll feel good knowing that you helped malnourished adults and kids have a balanced meal.

Amanda Reckonwith said...

Nauseatingly well said!

H. Scott said...

Thanks Randy; Like Minds - Great Minds.Here's what I published about the same event: This just in: All Americans are athletes! The Hot Dog Eating contest* was broadcast last Sunday on ESPN, and got some play in all the major newspapers. The San Francisco Chronicle even noted the broadcast of the contest in their daily sports TV log under the title of “Eating.” It was right there with “Cycling”, “Soccer” and the other so-called sports. I forgot to set the DVR.

Though it was touted as a “sporting event”, the SF Chronicle gave me confusion and dissonance by placing the final story of the event on page A-4 rather than in the Sports or Food Section. As a measure of the importance, It took up about a third of the page.

Finally, gustatory athletes are getting the respect and standing they so richly deserve. Eating IS a sport – fork, spoon, chopsticks, we have various categories for competition. Then of course there is the “finger food” category, which includes hot dogs.

The controversy surrounding the aftermath was made for the Maury Povich Show. It was reported that the defending champion** “crashed” the event afterward because he refused to sign a contract with “Major League Eating (MLE).” I also learned from the SF Chronicle that (MLE) is the fast-food equivalent to the National Football League (NFL), our national sport.

I suppose the point of all this is that stuffing as many hot dogs into one’s mouth as possible in 10 minutes is good, clean, healthy fun, and that all young Americans should aspire to such ambitions. If you get really good at it, you can turn pro and sign endorsement contracts. After all, eaters are athletes. That means that roughly 99.9999% of Americans are considered athletes. Now our perception is changing. Obesity and digestive nightmares are merely part of the game, like a sprained ankle from a basketball game. Oh, those heroic war wounds.

Name me one other sporting event where the traditional celebration involves hoisting a bottle of Pepto-Bismal. I thought the milk thing at the Indy 500 was creepy, but Pepto-Bismal? Sounds like a gag on the old “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.” I’m left wondering why is it taking the SF Chronicle so long to hire a full-time “Eating” reporter? Maybe it’s because their sports section has a conflict of interest with their food editors. Now, I understand why this ended up in the front section rather than the Sports or Food Section; it was a compromise so the department editors would stop fighting over it.

Big event, big news and just the right amount of information. Not too much; not too little, but JUST right. I feel full.

*I refuse to ID or dignify the corporate sponsor.
**I refuse to ID or dignify him either.

Drew said...

wassa...burp...prollem?

The Grey Poupon Millionaire said...

I would like to remind everyone, that they aren't "Hot Dogs", they are "Frankfurter Sausages"!

This evening I shsll enjoy a sumptuous repast of "Mortadella Wellington", a generous portion of Balogna Sausage, coated with pate and duxelles, and baked into a puffed pastry. Most excellent, served with asparagus. However, times being what they are, I have to suffer with succotash...

Anonymous said...

I think that most of us can agree that the whole concept of sport eating is just one more evidence of the coarsening of America. Now that we have entered the post-Christian era, there will be no limit to the debauchery that will be coming down the pike. At the very least religion has a restraining effect upon those who are sincere about their spiritual practice. Much if not most of that retraining effect is a thing of the past with a growing number of people in this country, and the frightening thing is that there is no bottom when it comes to the potential for un-regenerate man to plumb the depths of decadence, violence, etc. That being said, tighten your seat belts, because we have only just begun the descent into hell come to Earth. We are only in the suburbs, so to speak. Sputnik, it stuns me how you are able to project your Marxist world view upon everything, and your overwhelming disdain for America. You often eloquently give voice to your disdain for this country and for the principles that (once) made it great. Like most socialists you seem to have no concept of the desirability of individual responsibility in the domain of human behavior. First, if you found this eating contest so odious why did you watch it? I choose not to watch and have never seen one except for brief reports in the news. Why do you see an issue in regard to redistributive justice from this exercise in tastelessness? Another thing, you blame obesity on the presence of fast food businesses. When I go to fast food places I usually order salads. It is a matter of free choice, remember? I want to give Sireen a big hand for adding her inciteful, freedom-supporting commentary in defense of free choice. You ascribe gluttony and sloth to the food-gorging contests and their corporate sponsors. I think that a case can be made in regard to gluttony and sloth as being the primary reasons that some people become morbidly obese. But that would bring us back to self-discipline, moral accountability, self-restraint, etc. These things drive Marxist up a wall because people who practice these virtues don't need a lot of governmental regulation and control...the very opposite of your freedom-reducing, soul-killing Marxist agenda. A society is only as strong as the individuals that make up the society and you Marxists are so involved with the 'collective' that you lose sight of the fact that collectivism tends to weaken and diminish the individual. This brings us back to the rampant problems that we have in this country. We can thank liberal/progressive/socialists such as yourself for this state of affairs. In parting, it has been my experience that those who are in most need of a good education are the least to apply themselves toward that end. I attribute that to 'safety net' consciousness. Why put forth the effort? Everyone can get the essentials from the government and then either sell dope, pimp, or steal to get the rest. The same goes for developing the qualities that one needs to be a good employee. Why try when the basics for survival are free? Ain't socialism wonderful? Just wait till you see where the socialist agenda will take us in the future...a coast to coast third world ghetto and that is probably the best that can be hoped for. What do socialists do after they have spent all of the producers money? In some times and places they have resorted to forced labor. I'm just saying...

Anonymous said...

I think that most of us can agree that the whole concept of sport eating is just one more evidence of the coarsening of America. Now that we have entered the post-Christian era, there will be no limit to the debauchery that will be coming down the pike. At the very least religion has a restraining effect upon those who are sincere about their spiritual practice. Much if not most of that retraining effect is a thing of the past with a growing number of people in this country, and the frightening thing is that there is no bottom when it comes to the potential for un-regenerate man to plumb the depths of decadence, violence, etc. That being said, tighten your seat belts, because we have only just begun the descent into hell come to Earth. We are only in the suburbs, so to speak. Sputnik, it stuns me how you are able to project your Marxist world view upon everything, and your overwhelming disdain for America. You often eloquently give voice to your disdain for this country and for the principles that (once) made it great. Like most socialists you seem to have no concept of the desirability of individual responsibility in the domain of human behavior. First, if you found this eating contest so odious why did you watch it? I choose not to watch and have never seen one except for brief reports in the news. Why do you see an issue in regard to redistributive justice from this exercise in tastelessness? Another thing, you blame obesity on the presence of fast food businesses. When I go to fast food places I usually order salads. It is a matter of free choice, remember? I want to give Sireen a big hand for adding her inciteful, freedom-supporting commentary in defense of free choice. You ascribe gluttony and sloth to the food-gorging contests and their corporate sponsors. I think that a case can be made in regard to gluttony and sloth as being the primary reasons that some people become morbidly obese. But that would bring us back to self-discipline, moral accountability, self-restraint, etc. These things drive Marxist up a wall because people who practice these virtues don't need a lot of governmental regulation and control...the very opposite of your freedom-reducing, soul-killing Marxist agenda. A society is only as strong as the individuals that make up the society and you Marxists are so involved with the 'collective' that you lose sight of the fact that collectivism tends to weaken and diminish the individual. This brings us back to the rampant problems that we have in this country. We can thank liberal/progressive/socialists such as yourself for this state of affairs. In parting, it has been my experience that those who are in most need of a good education are the least to apply themselves toward that end. I attribute that to 'safety net' consciousness. Why put forth the effort? Everyone can get the essentials from the government and then either sell dope, pimp, or steal to get the rest. The same goes for developing the qualities that one needs to be a good employee. Why try when the basics for survival are free? Ain't socialism wonderful? Just wait till you see where the socialist agenda will take us in the future...a coast to coast third world ghetto and that is probably the best that can be hoped for. What do socialists do after they have spent all of the producers money? In some times and places they have resorted to forced labor. I'm just saying...

Anonymous said...

Sireen's commentary is a rare incidence of sanity on this blog. Apparently, she realizes that individual freedom and the Marxist vision of a just society are in conflict. A free people make choices that don't jibe with what the control-freak Marxists have in store for us. Health care has been socialized and there are countless human behaviors that are detrimental to the collective when it comes to health care costs. Because of this, eventually the government will issue hundreds if not thousands of edicts to control our behavior in regard to health care issues. Big Brother knows better and he will use fines and taxes to shape our behavior, if not outright coercion. The same will go if they succeed in taking over the energy sector through Cap & Trade which is the biggest scam ever perpetrated upon a free people. Billions will be made in the carbon trading business which will follow the passage of this legislation and Al Gore will be first in line. Look into the draconian effects of what that legislation will bring about. Sireen is not exagerating about controlling thermostats. Harold Raines who headed up Fannie Mae purchased (using taxpayer dollars) the patent for a devise that can control the energy useage of every home in America. In addition, before any house can be sold it must conform to new environmental standards, be inspected by a government official and given a certificate of approval. This certificate will only be issued after the owner of the house pays a fortune to bring it up to the new energy code...so much for the real estate business. This sort of thing goes on and on because Marxists believe in top-down micromanaging. Individual freedom gets in the way of all of their plans for us. Government grows at the expense of individual freedom. The Constitution was designed to put chains upon governmental tyranny thereby ensuring the freedom of the citizens. The progressives have managed to pretty much trash the Constitution and allow government to grow way beyond the intended restraints. The Constitutional chains have been removed from the government and the chains will be placed upon the citizenry. If Obama and his Marxists cohorts are not stopped, we will shortly live to see a drastic loss of freedom. I think that most folks will miss freedom. And to think that the party that worked the most to free the blacks will be putting the chains right back on them. Rise up and fight the Marxist bastards, Sireen!!

Anonymous said...

'We gotta kill the crackers and they white babies. I hate all white people. I hate every iota of a cracker. Now you white people are going to find out what it is like to be ruled by black men'...Amen to that.

Anonymous said...

From the land of the fried peanut butter and banana sandwich.... I LOVE it. Wish I were there now, chowing down on a rack of BBQ ribs. Maybe a slice of chocolate meringue pie from Brittlings.... Yeah, I know they closed; but I can dream. You got it right, though, Randy. I can no longer look at the screen when the eating competitions are reported on the news. It needs to stop!!