In America, we eat to excess. It’s our birthright.
Don’t get me wrong. I like to be gluttonous every now and then, indulging myself with the quarterly visit to a Brazilian steakhouse perhaps, but I’m not going to sit at a dinner table and see how many chicken wings I can eat in a ten-minute span. It’s just not how I choose to enjoy a meal. I did that once with Krystal burgers in college and my intestinal lining is still paying the price.
Others, however, have chosen different career paths. Take Joey Chestnut for example, the world’s most famous eater. He throws back hot dogs, Matzoh balls, gyros, asparagus, pork ribs and yes, chicken wings at a record pace. At this year’s Nathan’s eat-off, he crammed 69 hot dogs into his pie hole in ten minutes flat. He polished off 78 Matzoh Balls in eight minutes in one contest and 22 ¼ gyros in ten minutes in another. Are you hungry yet?
When I heard that Mr. Chestnut and his merry band of gluttons were going to be invading a local Hooters to compete in an eat-off for the ages, how could I resist the gruesome display of blood, sweat and wings that was to come?
This is how bad things have gotten in this country. Forget crime, racism and poverty. Forget the health care crisis or our national recession. I told a friend I was going to see Joey Chestnut for a potential SportsChump piece and I didn’t need to explain who he was. She had already heard of him. It was as if I was going to see LeBron James or Derek Jeter or Tom Cruise. It’s a sad, sad day when eating makes you famous.
After a late lunch with mom at PF Chang’s, chicken wings not included, I traversed the Courtney Campbell Causeway through rain and rush hour traffic toward my destination. Finding the nation’s original Hooters was easy. I just followed the smell of buffalo sauce and artery hardening.
The place was mobbed. Hundreds of fans gathered, holding in both hands the warm draft beer they had just purchased from the Budweiser truck. Forget the stroller, Marge, fetch me another Bud Light. We got wing-eaters to watch! With live music playing in the background, this was your typical, parking lot Florida funk fest: flip-flops, beach balls and women wearing clothes two sizes too small. Even Jon Gruden made an appearance. If I’m not mistaken, I believe he actually worked at that very same Hooters as a teenager so there’s hope for you yet, young fry cook.
Sixteen competitors graced the stage that evening. My stomach rumbled at the thought of what was to come.
The straw-hatted emcee and self-proclaimed chairman of major league eating, George Shea, kept the crowd involved, stealing the show with his one-liners. “Welcome the greatest eaters in the world!!!” Shea shouted, as he introduced the next circus freak to the stage, some of them over 300 lbs. The contest’s main attraction, Joey Chestnut, received more applause than the man who ranks fifth all-time in home runs ever will again. With competitive eating growing in popularity and nary a failed drug test to be found, perhaps we’re on the verge of a new national pastime. The sport’s logo could be an ever-expanding waistline.
Aside from the distinction of becoming the 2013 Hooters Wing Eating Champion (as if that’s not honor enough), the contestant who ate the most wings that afternoon would receive a check for $6,000. That buys a lot of Tums.
Other contestants included the Black Widow Sonya Thomas, all 98 pounds of her, and hot newcomer Miki Sudo. I say hot because she’s actually attractive, if you can look past the buffalo sauce that’s smeared all over her face. Imagine finding someone you thought was a nice girl. You ask her out to dinner and find out she eats for a living. I hope you have some extra room on that credit card. The same goes for you girls. You finally meet a decent guy. He asks you out to dinner and then proceeds to shove fifty meatballs down his throat. Ah, to be young, hungry and in love in America.
The clock sounded and the eaters were off. I’m not gonna lie. Things got gross. Each contestant had to eat as many chicken wings as were placed in the giant stainless steel bowl in front of them. Each eater had their own technique. Water here, Gatorade there, carefully timed to wash down the pounds of carcass they were shoving down their throats. Meat left on the bone counted against in the final weighing.
The clock finally expired after a nauseating ten minutes of wing chewing and sauce spewing. Every contestant had the unmistakable look of regret on their faces, both their consciences and their stomachs berating them for participating in a contest that should never exist in the first place. Wing sauce covered them all.
The bowls were taken off stage and weighed, not by the handler of Ryan Braun’s urine sample to ensure accuracy. Chants of “Atta Boy, Joey!” pierced the crowd after Joey Chestnut was announced champion… 177 chicken wings later. I wonder if those shouting his name felt in any way bad for doing so.
In the end, I’m not sure what lesson is to be learned here from all this. Somewhere along the line in this country’s history, when the first person suggested holding eating competitions, the others around with any sense of decency should have overruled him. We’re a nation that struggles with both hunger and obesity yet we have competitive eat-offs. I pity the child in the audience who told his parents on the ride home that he wants to be grow up to be a competitive eater or the parents that think that’s a good idea. Was there anyone else out there who thought that eating as many chicken wings as humanly possible in ten minutes time probably isn’t the most philanthropic of gestures?
I guess not. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to make myself something to eat.
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Reminds me of former All-American Texas Tech linebacker Gabriel Rivera. If you peruse back issues of our local newspaper and the university newspaper, there are several articles on Gabe in which his teammates are quoted as saying
“We like to go to McDonald’s with Gabe and watch the numbers change.”
I think my record for Krystal burgers back in the day was 14 in one sitting.
I mean, I couldn’t help myself. They’re just so delicious.
Chicken wing chicken wing
Hot dogs and baloney,
chicken and macaroni
Chillin with my homies
When it comes to binge eating I’m all for it. Especially if you can paid to do it? WTF not??
PETA can kiss my chocolate starfish.
Hell, I love animals…
I love them most when they’re seasoned correctly.
As for Joey and his mouth stuffing ways, good for him. Shit, it beats working for a living. All you can eat free food, money and fame just for doing what half the globe can only dream of on a day to day basis? I take the Bill Walton route…Throw it down big man, throw it down.
I just hate to think of what his groupies might look like.
The American Academy of Pediatrics must be so proud that Joey Chestnut and Sonya Tomas are such proud products and role model for kids to look up to . Eat like a pig , become obese and you damn well die from clogged arteries and from eating crap .
And only recently , the US was trying to suggest that as a nation obesity was on the decline ? Of the developed nations, it still ranks first in deaths from coronaries , due to due obesity and unhealthy diets . Yet, these facts are overlooked . Meanwhile , McDonalds professes to their healthy offerings . Really ?
Obesity amongst kids is actually on the rise and it costs the country hundreds of millions annually in terms of medical costs . Unnecessarily so , especially , when a healthy lifestyle is not being promoted and physical education is being taken out of schools .
It also costs the country in excess of $ 20 billion in terms of obesity amongst adults aged between 18-55 year old`s . Loss of work productivity and again healthcare issues . I suppose that has to be some sort of consolation ?
Ahh Krystal burgers, now that eating competition I would enter.
I actually met Gruden back in the 80’s when he was working at the Hooters on Hillsborough Avenue. I was delivering delicious Miller products at the time.
He was managing the kitchen and always treated me with respect.
The ties that bind
The Rays keep it going and they`re looking good .
So A Rod will fight any suspension and is lawyers state tat baseball`s actions contravenes the collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the union . Wat te player`s lawyers simply do not realize , is that the agreement was voted on and certified by its members without any opposition to the edicts agreed upon .
Okay, Bleed. You get one food group to specialize in.
What’s your food of choice to get all Chestnutty with? What do you think suits ya and where do you think you could give Joey Chestnut a run for his money?
When I was a kid, I was out playing any sort of ball I could until the sun came down.
Don’t get me wrong, I played video games too but I was always on the baseball diamond or basketball and tennis courts. I was a rail and ate my folks out of house and home.
Maybe that’s the one he worked at then.
He was there for a brief minute. Probably got paid a hefty fee to show his face too.
Must be nice.
Hopefully he didn’t get paid in chicken wings.
I’m all for protecting players’ right but if baseball is going to progress in any way, shape or form, they’re going to have to do something about that union.
Growing up, we would have contests to see how many of those foot long sticks of bubble gum you could get in your mouth at one time. I could do three, and actually that came in handy later on. I came down with a case of Bell’s palsy, and my physical therapist told me to chew as much gum as I could at one time in order to strengthen the muscles.
Rib eye or sushi would be my choice.
I couldn’t hang with Joey if my life depended on it. Eating fast isn’t for me, I prefer to savor my food…But if he wants to do it for our entertainment, all the power to him. It certainly isn’t a sport…more of a grotesque spectacle. I think it’s funny as hell to watch.
Man, that’s a lot of chicken wings! Nothing goes great with chicken than hot sauce. Delicious!
I was at “The Rack” a few months ago and some girl bet me a hundred dollars I couldn’t eat 50 McNuggets in one sitting. I couldn’t take her money as she was extremely hot and obviously had never seen me eat. I looked it up and that’s not even 2 pounds of McNuggets. Hell, I can sit down and eat a whole large pan pizza if I don’t watch myself.
At least you had the practice. Are you talking about the bubble gum that came in baseball cards?
I could probably put down about fifteen of those in one sitting. It’s amazing I still have teeth.
He must have almost gagged at least twice or three times towards the end of that thing. At one point, I actually thought it was going to happen. How sweet would THAT have been!
I’ve put back a fair amount of all you can eat sushi in my day.
My buddy used to hide the rice in napkins and just do the sashimi. I obviously immediately called for his disqualification.
I opt for the grilled teriyaki.
At least you’re having quality conversations with women these days.
Back in the day, an old work colleague bet me he couldn’t eat a full bag of mini-Milky Ways in one sitting. He did and I lost the bet. At least I got him to put ketchup on the last one as he finished off the bag, before he proudly took my five bucks.
Are you kidding? The bubble gum that came in baseball cards was unchewable. These were 12″ long sticks of bubble gum equivalent to about 20 or 30 pieces of regular chewing gum.
I know how you feel . Once I got into the martial arts (karate & muy-thai) things changed a great deal for me in terms of confidence and physical strength . Joining the military (British Royal Marines) , then even gave me further clarity and a life path .
Look baseball , remains in a cycle of stupidity with the union having all of the power and the league hierarchy being devoid of intelligence , along with the team owners .
A Rod took out an insurance policy to protect himself against loss of future earnings . The player now knows that there is no way in hell the underwriting insurer is likely to honor the policy with allegations surfacing that he is indeed a steroid cheat . Things are now looking bad for the player considering the Yankees traded for Alfonso Soriano .
It should also be interesting to see how Rodriguez can make his case in challenging any suspension rendered by MLB. Personally , I can`t even see te Yankees allowing him to play for the team this regular season . They no longer want him or actually need the player . Never mind the fact that he as not been truly productive for the team when it matters most .
He he, Beag.
I have no idea the gum you’re talking about.
And I made that baseball card gum chewable. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one on my block who did. Talk about giving one’s incisors a workout!
ARod’s going to get his. The union will see to it.
He’ll eventually ride off into the sunset with the millions he stole from Seattle, Texas and New York and live happily ever after.
As for what the future holds with drug-taking baseball players, well, that’s yet to be determined. Until things change, I’m not so sure that they will.
The union may not , because Michael Weiner , union executive director , has already stated that any player seeking an appeal , will be vigorously defended by the the Players` Union and their legal counsel .
Left you a response concerning my NBA piece . Let me know if you believe my statement to be wholly accurate as it relates to Dwight Howard ?
Going for broke …
Also, there is this baseball piece that covers the Rays . Your thoughts on that as well ?
The ties that bind
What rights is it that you believe the players have to be protected, when they are in fact breaking state and federal laws in such an instance ? Think about it before you answer .
And in case you hadn`t noticed players such as A Rod and Ryan Braun have used their status to work in areas of kids` charities . It seems you`re cherry picking players without looking at te big picture overall .
These two players are now the faces of steroid cheats for tis era in baseball . Kids who more likely at one time or another, impressionable as they are, looked up to these players or were somehow led to believe by their parents , that these guys were role models. Braun and Rodriguez have stated that they want to be seen as role models for young kids . What does tat indicate to you about their amorality ?
I can honestly say this , the Tampa Bay area is now filled with dumb parents , who actually waited in line for up to two-and-a-half hours to obtain a signed autograph of the player (A Rod) while he was on rehab assignment recently . What the hell, are these parents actually thinking to begin with ? Or are they not intelligent enough to realize what they`re doing ? Your thoughts on that ?
Eagles` player Riley Cooper must be one of te biggest a-oles in the league . Given the make-up of the NFL in terms of its ethnicity . What the hell was he thinking in using the racial epithets he used publicly on stage in front of an audience of hundreds .
On a bye note , are the players to have come out of Florida over the last four seasons who`ve been drafted , that damn stupid ? . Or is it simply systematic of playing under an incessant buffoon such as Urban Meyer , who continually looks to blame others for the players with bad character , that he recruited to play for the program ?
ARod’s gonna be the fall guy, Al, making two of the top five home run hitters of all time linked to performance enhancing drugs. We should commend Major League Baseball on its anti-drug efforts over the years.
Surely, I jest.
I’ll have my thoughts up on Riley Cooper, Ryan Braun and the rest of them up tomorrow. I know you can’t wait.
A Rod the would be fall guy ? LOL !!
Look, if the Yankees` front office can`t with all of their resources find a way to kick the player`s @@s to the curb . Then what now gives you te impression that MLB will be successful when they (league hierarchy ) simply caved to Ryan Braun`s lawyers and only gave te player a sixty-five game suspension , when Selig himself, was quoted as saying 100 games would be a minimum ? Are you drinking too much of the Kool Aid ?
Once the player seeks to appeal any suspension, it further prolongs the situation all the more . Are you simply forgetting that altogether ?
Don’t get me wrong, Al. I’m not saying that ARod doesn’t deserve to be the fall guy. He fits the bill, having taken steroids, lied about it, then ied about it again.
And baseball is far away from correcting any of its woes but at a minimum, at least this is all a step in the right direction.
How can it be viewed as a step in the right direction when it was Braun`s lawyers dictating the terms and what the player was willing to accept in terms of a suspension ? It makes baseball`s hierarchy continue to look extremely weak and reluctant to make the tough decisions , which, I do believe they are !
Bud Selig`s bark is most definitely worse than his bite .
Continually , we hear Bud Selig say what he believes the fans want to hear, but in the end it all amounts to nothing . I mean , we`re still waiting on Manny Ramirez to serve his mandated 100 game suspension as two-time offender . Yet there he is , playing ball for Round Rock Express a Texas Rangers` minor league affiliate . So if you can , either you or any of your patrons explain that particular misnomer instead of this continued idiocy of A-Rod getting his ? Baseball has not done anything to truly address the steroids` issue and the continued cheating .
Former US Senator Trent Lott approved Riley Cooper` message . If Cooper is now using is drunkenness as a way to explain is stupidity . Then he is is simply insulting those his remarks were aimed at as well as those in attendance who had to listen to is rant .
As to Cooper`s act of contrition by first `tweeting` an apology . How much of a fool is this kid to begin with ? What type of dumb @ss athletes i are they turning out of Florida at present , to play in the NFL ?
All I meant by step in the right direction is, assuming baseball suspends players for the rest of the season without pussyfooting around, well, that would be the right step.
Until that happens, baseball continues be mired in hypocrisy.
And Cooper? Well, he’ll get his. They always do.
I still don’t understand how competitive eating came about… and that it is as popular as it is. We should have competitive beer drinking. Now that would be something… they should put a glass pane in between the crowd and the contestants though
It had to be at a frat party somewhere, right, Kev?
Yeah, you’re probably right…. not one that I was ever at though. Unless I was and can’t remember it. That’s certainly a possibility.
I get that a lot too these days, Kev.
It’s easy to blame the a-a-a-a-a-a-a-alcohol but I opt for the early senility route.
Been to that Hooters myself and was less than impressed. And eating 177 wings for only 6k doesn’t impress me either. Then again this is what our country is sadly about…shoveling instead of savoring.
Would I have attended like you to see this insanity? Yes sir because sanity is just across the street in The World of Beer!
You know I’m more of a booze than a beer guy but for a World of Beer tour around the world with you, I’d make an exception.
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