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Oct. 11, 2005

The real heavyweight championship

by Michael Bushnell, Page Editor
Food is supposed to provide sustenance. It replenishes your body with vitamins, nutrients and 11 of the Colonel's original herbs and spices. Even better, what we eat provides entertainment for many, and a livelihood for the chosen fat.

Of all the sports covered in these back pages of Silver Chips, none of them are as fun to watch as my new favorite sport: competitive eating. The only thing I like more than eating is watching other people do it. And that's saying something.

You may know about the Japanese eating champion Takeru Kobiyashi, who ate 50 Nathan's hot dogs in 12 minutes at last July's competition in Brooklyn. He ate 54 the year before that, and is the number one ranked competitive eater in the world. Yes; they have rankings.

But the Nathan's hot dog eating contest is not the end of the trough for competitive gorgers. The International Federation of Competitive Eating (IFOCE) has a web site full of news, stats and other information for those who need to be informed and up-to-date in the world of eating.

The website contains eater profiles, similar to players' stats on a sports website. Whereas ESPN might list noteworthy games for Gilbert Arenas, IFOCE lists the most ridiculous foods people have eaten. Kobiyashi's major accomplishments are listed as eating 17.7 pounds of cow brains in 15 minutes and 20 pounds of rice in half an hour.

I don't want to say that competitive eating encourages obesity, but in one event, Sonya Thomas of Alexandria ate 40 crab cakes in 12 minutes. The way I look at it is, if having a colon or two good kidneys is important to you, don't be a competitive eater.

The best obese eater is Eric Booker, a 420-pound hulk, who cut a rap album titled "Hungry and Focused." He also ate 50 hamentashen in six minutes and 57 Krystal mini-hamburgers in eight. I guess he and Notorious B.I.G. used to have the same caterer.

Not only did Booker eat hamentashen, but he also recently won a Matzo Ball eating contest by consuming 30 in just over five minutes. If he can eat 40 gefilte fish and sit through Yom Kippur dinner next week with my family, then I'll be impressed.     

Like my Bar Mitzvah, or wherever else gorging on hamentashen is encouraged, the IFOCE prides itself on its "safety standards." Its site asserts that it will not sanction an event without "the highest safety regulations in place." Either that, or a bottle of Pepto-Bismol.

But just like there are fat hockey players, white basketball players, and pro golfers who aren't jerks, there are skinny eaters. In fact, the top three eaters in the IFOCE rankings all weigh less than 150 pounds.

I would've thought that there'd be more obese people at the top. After all, if you've been slowly eating your way to an early grave for the last 30 years, what's another slice of cheesecake?

And for all that cake you eat, the prizes aren't that impressive. For all the damage you're likely doing to your organs, the average prize for the winner is about $1,500. The most valuable prize was from one contest that gave $5,000 and "historic pottery" to the winner. Yeah, pottery's the first thing I want after I eat 10 sticks of butter. Great.

Last month, 409-pound Ed "Cookie" Jarvis ate a "buffalo wing buffet" of wings, pierogies, roast beef and other pieces of salty goodness. All for 500 bucks. When the prize is worth less than the food that you ate, that's a bad sign.

A guy named "Crazy Legs" Conti ate 12 pounds of "buffet food" in five minutes. I bet his legs are crazy because he can't lift them up anymore.

The only thing I don't get is how they declare a winner in each event. It could be expedience; the person who eats most amount of food eaten in a given time wins, or least time to eat a certain amount of food. Or maybe the winner is the only one who isn't convulsing from eating 552 oysters in 10 minutes (someone actually did this).

One of Thomas' best performances was when she ate 8.4 pounds of baked beans in two minutes and 47 seconds, and was presumably able to propel herself home.

She also had 48 tacos in 11 minutes, setting another world record. For her sake, I hope that she can power-drink Listerine, too.

So as you sit down to watch the baseball playoffs, where sluggers will hit 99 mph pitches 500 feet, take their skills with a grain of salt.
After all, have any of them eaten 274 dumplings in six minutes? That's what I thought.

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  • Andrew on October 13, 2005 at 3:10 PM
    Too much statistics and not enough, you know, humor.
  • blazah on October 15, 2005 at 2:56 PM
    I agree. Too many statistics.

    (not too MUCH...)
  • Where? on October 17, 2005 at 8:43 PM
    Where's the sarcasm?! This could have been a very humorous piece, but sounds more like an opinion article.
  • troy (View Email) on November 8, 2005 at 10:19 AM
    I am a fan of eating too. You didn't notice that the Alka Seltzer US OPen, which aired on ESPN and was produced by the IFOCE, actually had $40,000 in prizes?
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