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Peanuts and Cracker Jacks? Baseball weighs in with an eight pound burger, a two foot hotdog and a three pound pretzel

Earlier this month, the Washington Nationals unveiled the StrausBurger, a hefty hamburger composed of ground brisket, chuck and short ribs topped with a heck of a lot of condiments.  The damn thing weighs in at around 8 pounds and contains somewhere in the neighborhood of 8,000 to 10,000 calories.

Ironically, the sandwich is named after Stephen Strausburg, a lanky young pitcher who looks like he’s never eaten a hamburger, much less a ball of meat that weighs as much as the human head.

Nolan Ryan, the competitive owner of the Texas Rangers, is obviously not impressed with the StrausBurger.  Earlier this week, his team introduced the Champion Dog, a 2 foot hotdog served on a virtual loaf of bread that weighs in at around a pound.  The monstrosity is complimented by sauteed onions, shredded cheese, chili, jalapenos, and, of course, a side order of french fries.  As you can tell from this picture, it’s about as big as a baseball bat.

Steve Peterson, President of Classic Foods, the producer of the meat used in the Champion Dog, was obviously excited.  When referring to the surreal combination of meat trimmings, fat, flavorings and preservatives, he claimed that it was “the next ka-pow.”  I’m still not sure if he was referring to the hot dog, the 2,000 to 3,000 calories contained in the meal, or its $26 price tag.

It’s not the first time that the Texas Rangers have offered fans the opportunity to stick a foot in the grave.  In 2010, the Ballpark at Arlington began serving a pretzel that tipped the scales at an absurd 3 pounds and topped the charts at between 3,400 and 3,700 calories.  It’s served with a modest sampling of marinara sauce, honey mustard dressing and nacho cheese and served in a cardboard pizza box. At the end of the day, it weights nearly as much as a chihuahua

Ballpark Operations Manager Casey Rapp explained the twisted reasoning behind the knot-shaped combination of flour and salt by reasoning that “[l]ast year during the playoffs, we said, ‘We gotta come up with something that’s bigger than anything else, that really signifies Texas.'”

Mr. Rapp certainly hit a home run – no pun intended – because everything really is bigger in Texas.  Including people.  For those of you keeping score, Arlington – the home of the Texas Rangers – now ranks as the 15th fattest city in the entire country.  Over 35 percent of the city’s population is clinically obese, which is the second highest rate in the entire freakin’ country.

Surprised?

(And before all the southerners call foul… yes, I live in Texas.  I used to live in Arlington.  But I’m still alive)

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THE NATIONAL WAISTLINE: major league baseball and free agency serve as a reminder that obesity impacts far more than long-term physical health

DISCLAIMER:  This isn’t necessarily a post about baseball, at least insofar as it isn’t directed towards fans of our national pastime.  Personally, I get giddy when pitchers and catchers report to camp, and I’m sure that I’ll toss out a few entries about about prospects and sabermetrics during the season.  For the time being, if you’re looking to read about signings, trades and arbitration, I’d suggest looking at ESPN, Sports Illustrated, the Sporting News or HardballTalk.  

UPDATE:  Prince Fielder and the Detroit Tigers have agreed to a contract that will reportedly pay the slugger $214 million over 9 years.  Good for Prince.  Shame on Sports Illustrated for running a headline that referred to the deal as a “hefty gamble.”

Prince Fielder stands to make a heck of a lot of money.  The 27-year-old first baseman is an elite slugger and the best remaining free agent in Major League Baseball.  Any number of organizations would jump at the opportunity to insert him into their starting lineups.  They’ll have to show him the proverbial money, though, because he is asking for a contract that will pay $200 million over the next eight to ten years.

His productivity certainly suggests that he’s deserving of a lucrative contract.  Prince has, however, encountered a bit of a stumbling block in his negotiations.  Organizations are leery about committing so much money over such an extended period of time because they’re concerned about his ability to maintain his current level of production.

That’s not necessarily a surprise, simply because $200 million is a heck of a lot of money and eight to ten years is a heck of a long period of time.  Professional athletes are human, after all, and their skills and abilities will regress as they age.  Fiscal responsibility almost necessitates a comparison of the cost of later years with the expected regression in productivity during that time.

Well, maybe this situation is a little bit unusual, because Prince is a little bit different than the average major leaguer.  He stands at less than 6 feet tall but tips the proverbial scales at around 275 lbs.  In other words, he’s big, and bigger bodies typically break down at an accelerated rate.  This essentially means that clubs fear they may not realize as great of a return over the life his contract as they would if they spent their money on a more athletic and fit player.

Now, I’m not writing this post to criticize Prince, his lifestyle or his work ethic.  I’m certainly not poking fun at his size.  A lot of people have difficulty in managing their weight regardless of how often they exercise or how much attention they pay to their diet.  There’s wisdom in the old sayings, and there’s certainly wisdom in knowing that we can’t simply judge a book by its cover.

Still, we often focus on the correlation between weight and long-term well-being, but the fact of the matter is that Prince’s weight threatens to cost him millions or tens of millions of dollars in the immediate future.  Most may not be able to relate to the scope of his salary, but a number of overweight and obese people experience economic consequences that are the direct result of their build.  In fact, Americans who struggle with their weight face a variety of challenges that are wholly unrelated to the size of their waist.  For example:

  • Obese people often suffer from stereotypes and negative social stigmata.  There’s little doubt that society wants her people to be thin, attractive and athletic.  This desire has helped foster an environment where the public is literally drowning in a sea of advertisements, television programming, Hollywood productions and celebrity appearances that typically involve only the most attractive and handsome people.  Obese people, on the other hand, are often viewed as lazy, sloppy and indulgent, and they’re often blamed for being unable to attain mostly unattainable qualities.

There are a number of other consequences of obesity that do not necessarily relate to a person’s long-term physical health.  These consequences don’t even begin to account for the aggregate impact that obesity is having upon our economy.  Research has shown, for example, that obesity may already be costing employers in excess of $73 billion per year.  It is also having a significant effect on the national economy, and the collective health care costs and overall loss of productivity resulting from obesity have been estimated to cost as much as $147 billion per year.

To put this in perspective: $147 billion is more than the gross domestic product of a number of countries, such as New Zealand and Hungary, and the figure is greater than the combined gross state product of South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana and Vermont.

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HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE: presents for people who attract obnoxious swarms of biting, stinging and irksome insects

QUESTION: What gift could you possible get for a friend or relative who attracts obnoxious swarms of biting, stinging and irksome insects?

ANSWER:  Hair.

Seriously?  Seriously.  Nearly a year ago, the media was reporting that nurses stationed at hospitals in Auckland, New Zealand, were being attacked by swarms of biting insects.  The nurses reportedly resorted to wearing flea collars around their ankles to protect themselves from infestations at the hospitals.  These flea collars were, however, designed for use by dogs, cats and other pets, and they therefore contained toxins and other harmful chemicals that could prove dangerous to humans.  At least one hospital therefore suggested that its staff consider using electronic flea collars, which are apparently a more appropriate, dignified and stylish alternative.

Ecolab, the company responsible for pest management at most hospitals in Auckland, essentially dismissed the claims.  It reportedly explained that the irritations suffered by nurses may not be caused by real insects but instead could be caused by imaginary bugs.  The company also allegedly theorized that marks on the skin that resemble insect bites may actually be caused by static electricity.

That’s right: schooled, trained and licensed medical professionals entrusted to save human lives were now unable to differentiate between swarms of biting insects and the type of electric shock you receive when you touch a doorknob after scuttling around in socks.

Well, static electricity is apparently contagious.  Employees at the largest casino in Auckland later complained that they were also suffering from similar attacks from swarms of insec…. er…  electric shocks.  They also began wearing flea collars around their ankles to protect themselves from bites… uh… electric shocks.  Not surprisingly, the casino’s management allegedly dismissed the claims.  A spokesperson for the casino reportedlyexplained that

[m]ost large carpeted buildings that are frequented by the public encounter some degree of an issue with biting insects…  We have thorough proactive pest control measures in place and are confident that we are providing a safe and healthy facility for our staff and customers.

It also represented that the casino’s carpeted floors are cleaned on a daily basis and that it was not aware of any problems with biting insects.  The explanation fails to account for the reason that SkyCity Casino provided insect repellant to its staff.

Credit a group of scientists with a recent discovery that may serve as a more practical means for combating the infestations than insect repellant and flea anklets. According to a recent report in Biology Letters, a bi-monthly publication that purports to carry cutting-edge research articles, ectoparasites – the technical name for bedbugs – can be thwarted by hair.  The report was submitted by a team of scientists from Sheffield, England, that conducted an experiment that revealed that bedbugs placed on shaved arms were more likely to attack than bedbugs placed on unshaved arms.  They theorized that body hair slowed attacks by bedbugs because the bedbugs were unable to find an appropriate location to feast.

This discovery may not lead to a perfect or ideal solution, simply because the experiment was limited to attacks by bedbugs and not swarms of other nagging insects.  At the very least, though, the recent revelation offers hope and promise to the victims during the forthcoming holiday season.  It’s a Christmas miracle, Charlie Brown!

This little nugget of joy also means that Rogaine has suddenly become a fitting gift for balding friends and relatives.  Your friends and relatives will no longer take offense at the implications; they’ll simply be thankful and appreciative of your kindness and generosity.  They’ll also applaud your gifts of specially formulated shampoos and conditioners designed to stimulate the growth of hair and cutting-edge hair rejuvenation systems.

Want to really splurge on that special someone?  Consider the Hands Free Hair Rejuvenation System that’s now sold at the Sharper Image.  It’s an electric metal hat that resembles some odd combination of a bicycle crash helmet and the robotic maid from the Jetsons.  I’m guessing that it also makes an ideal fashion statement for trendy and stylish recipients.

So.  There you have it.  Any product that purports to stimulate the growth of hair is clearly the most appropriate gift for someone who attracts obnoxious swarms of biting, stinging and irksome insects.  You’ll never disparage late-night infomercials again.

PROFESSIONAL ATHLETES, COMPETITIVE EATING AND WORLD HUNGER: when sarcasm and epidemics collide

Forget Albert Pujols, Jose Reyes and Prince Fielder.  They’re amateurs. It’s long past time that the nation recognizes the heroic accomplishments of Joey Chestnut, Bob Shoudt, Gravy Brown and Eric Booker.

Forget about the upcoming tip-off of the 2011-12 NBA season, the looming NFL playoffs and the NCAA BCS bowl series.  They’re irrelevant.  We’re ready to enjoy unbridled feats of athleticism at the Isle Casino Racing Pickle Eating World Championship, the Wild Turkey 81 Eating World Championship  and the Jake Melnick Battle of the Bhut XXX Wing Eating Championship.

That’s right, folks.  It’s time for the populous to stand up and announce, in a collective and deafening roar, our growing appetite for the recognition of the sport of competitive eating.

I’m not really sure why the mainstream media hasn’t already realized that the nation stands ready to consume increasing coverage of Major League Eating http://www.ifoce.com/index.php.  Later today, the world’s greatest athletes will compete in the Martorano’s Masters Meatball Eating Championship.  The event, however, is being largely overshadowed by the presentation of the Heisman Trophy.  That’s just not fair.

Look, opinions prove subjective and open to interpretation.  Statistics, however, never lie Read more of this post

Shaking, adding, running, walking… and supporting.

Tomorrow is Sunday, which is traditionally a day that we set aside for rest and relaxation.  There’s certainly a subtle sense of satisfaction that comes with this consistency, but there’s also something to be said for shaking up the routine and adding a little variety to life.

If you’re a fan of shaking and adding, and live in or near Austin, Texas, please come out and join us for the Jingle Bell 5k.  The annual event kicks off tomorrow morning, and proceeds will be used for the benefit of MADD.  It’s not too late to sign up.

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