I recently posted an entry that addressed the popularity of competitive eating. The entry was admittedly critical of the sport. I ultimately used it as an opportunity to get up on my soapbox and lambaste competitive eating within the context of the epidemic of world hunger.
I had the best of intentions, but was overly harsh. Sorry.
I want to confess my sins, undo the damage that I’ve done and at least try to make amends for my blunder. I’m therefore posting this entry to offer my encouragement to those who are aspiring to gobble massive quantities of food within relatively short periods of time. You deserve my support. Your accomplishments are not going unnoticed.
We need to recognize that competitive eaters often sacrifice their health and risk debilitating physical injury to achieve unprecedented caloric success. George Shea, the Chairman of Major League Eating, may have best explained the significance of the inherent hazards by noting that the risks fall somewhere between the dangers of ping-pong and the dangers of football. That’s pretty darn serious, and medical professionals seem to agree. They worry that competitive eaters may suffer from profound gastroparesis and intractable nausea and vomiting. These athletes may also require a gastrectomy, which apparently refers to the removal of part or all of the stomach.
No guts, no glory, right? It’s like TS Elliot proclaimed: Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go. Competitive eaters are athletes who are finding out just how far their stomachs (and their bowels) can go.
Not surprisingly, Major League Eating has issued standards and guidelines to at least maximize the safety of professional eaters. It insists that its events take place in a controlled environment and adhere to proper safety regulations. It also believes that persons under the age of eighteen should not participate and that nobody should participate without the presence of an emergency medical technician. The organization is also discouraging aspiring competitors from training at home.
There’s simply no denying that these standards are pretty darn stringent and are a reflection of the perils of gluttony. Still, competitive eaters apparently appreciate these risks yet sacrifice their safety for the glory and success.
Jimmy Johnson would be proud. He once asked: Do you want to be safe and good, or do you want to take a chance and be great? Competitive eaters often want to take a chance and be great.
Their training must be excruciating. Frankly, I’m not sure that anyone could truly prepare themselves mentally or physically for the rigors of competitive eating. How can anyone – even the elite among us – effectively prepare to consume over 10 pounds of Ramen Noodles in 8 minutes flat, 21 pounds of grits in a mere 10 minutes or 84 ounces of baked beans in less than 60 seconds?
I’m guessing that competitive eaters don’t limit their training and preparation to greasy fast food hamburgers. Those things may only have a couple of hundred calories. Plus, there’s a reason that we commonly associate a tired old cartoon character named “Wimpy” with these weak little morsels. Need I say more?
If I had to speculate, I’d reason that competitive eaters may embrace opportunities that don’t involve crumbs or nuggets of consumables. Instead, I’d guess that they become involved in amateur events and challenges sponsored by the world’s finest establishments. These appear to be growing in popularity among rookies, and may well prove to be gut-busting engagements where successful competitors truly need to demonstrate their merit, skill and intestinal fortitude.
For example, the Big Texan in Amarillo, Texas, is challenging folks to consume a 72 ounce top sirloin steak in an hour. Success is contingent upon downing not only the block of meat but also a baked potato, salad, dinner roll and shrimp cocktail. There’s also the Cowtown Diner in Fort Worth, Texas. It invites its patrons to down a 64 ounce chicken fried steak dripping in succulent gravy along with six pounds of mashed potatoes and ten slices of Texas toast.
Other challenges don’t require trainees to consume cows. Dallas, Texas is home of The Bistro B. It offers the opportunity to drop a gut-busting “Bowl of Pho” in 90 minutes. Incidentally, a Bowl of Pho appears to be the size of a small child and may weigh more than seven pounds. The establishment is wagering a $200 gift card against the success of the eaters. Blasphemy.
We already know that everything’s bigger in Texas, but aspiring professional eaters don’t need to travel to the Lone Star State to test their mettle. That Bar in Danville, California, is challenging eaters to take down a five pound burger in an hour. Nitally’s Thai Mexican Cuisine in St. Petersburg, Florida, doesn’t think eaters can finish what its 48 ounce Inferno Chicken Noodle Soup Bowl in thirty minutes. The Lee Street Deli in Columbia, Missouri, wants to see if anyone can consume eight Flaming Penguin Burgers in 30 minutes. And, of course, don’t forget about Jack-n-Grill, because it’s the home of the seven pound burrito.
These rigors are hard to fathom. These are the things that are reserved for the relatively few exceptional, legendary, herculean and superhuman members of society. Most of us – the author included – simply aren’t physically or mentally qualified to even attempt these olympian contests. We’d simply hurt ourselves. Bad.
I mean, simply check out the website for Pie in the Sky Pizzeria in Georgia. Its website hosts a brief video that clearly demonstrates the fearsome edible opposition in horrifying detail. Great googly moogly, look at that thing!
Not surprisingly, even battle-tested professionals may fail in their attempts to succeed when they undertake these bitter challenges. A recent press report, for example, covered a professional eater who voluntary embraced the perils of the Hail Mary Challenge at Stadium Grill in Columbia, Missouri. He was presented with a glorious hamburger made up of five pounds of meat that was served with bacon, pulled pork, three cheeses, onion straws, fried eggs and a pound of french fries. The professional athlete couldn’t finish the darn thing in an hour. If he can’t accomplish this feat, do the rest of us have any hope?
Look, it should be obvious by now that competitive eaters are engaging in grueling and gritty competitions that are reserved only for the elite. In light of these monumental challenges and the demands associated with the rigorous sport, even those who fail to succeed deserve our support. They deserve our recognition. It’s about time that we showed them the respect that they deserve.
As for me? I could never do it. I have a hard enough time standing out at the local buffet, and other customers put me to shame at Fogo De Chao.
And yes, if you made it this far, this posting was dripping with sarcasm. Competitive eating still sucks.