Every once and a while you come across something in the news that makes you shake your head and wonder “is society is really that bad off?”.
I was checking the news at CNN.com the other day and one of the ‘quick link’ main news items was a blurb about a new record in a hot dog eating contest. Yes, a hot dog eating contest. The link was to this ‘news’ (and I use the term loosely) story on Sports Illustrated‘s website detailing the triumph of Joey “Jaws” Chestnut at the Southwest Regional Hot Dog Eating Championship at the Arizona Mills Mall in Tempe, AZ, where he consumed a world record 59 1/2 hot dogs (with buns) in 12 minutes. “Jaws” thoroughly shattered the previous record of 53 3/4 hot dogs held by Japan’s Takeru Kobayashi. The picture on the news story shows “Jaws” in classic Rocky-like triumph. A link to video highlights also exists on CNN.com. This even made my local news last night. Ryan Nerz, a representative of contest producer Major League Eating, is quoted as saying “I always thought there was a limit — a limit to the human stomach and a limit to human willpower — but I guess not.” Inspirational. Major League Eating, by the way, is described as “a world governing board for all stomach-centric sports.”
Stomach-centric sports? Human willpower? These people cannot be serious. I’m as tolerant as the next guy about fluff pieces in the news, and human interest stories that become parodies of themselves (like the obligatory ending segment on the news of the water skiing cat, or similar), but I don’t think anyone in their right mind would mistake something like this for a legitimate sport, or having the ability to stuff 59 1/2 hot dogs down their gullet without triggering their gag reflex a feat worthy of admiration.
I guess I can’t say for sure. Anything for entertainment, I suppose. “Jaws” is now headed for international hot dog eating competition, where he and Kobayashi will go mano a mano to crown the hot dog eating champion of the planet.
Their moms must be so proud (they likely really are, and there’s another scary thing).
Personally, I see a resounding victory for the US, followed by a positive test for a banned substance by Chestnut… possibly Pepto Bismol or some designer stomach steroid… and then a scandal where he is stripped of his title and there goes all the fame, fortune and guest appearances at Nathan’s stands worldwide.
This all reminds me of the Stephen King short story “The Body” from the compilation “Different Seasons” (it was the basis of the movie “Stand By Me”). In it is a story within a story, told by one of the kids while on their adventure in the woods. It recounts the events in a small town pie eating contest, when local fat kid “Lard Ass Hogan” gets revenge on the town that has picked on him for years about his weight. He does this by downing a large quantity of castor oil prior to the contest (pie eating is taken very seriously by the town) and beating the long time adult champion. His revenge begins when the mixture of castor oil and blueberry eips caused him to vomit spectacularly into the crowd, inciting a cascading effect wherein the entire audience pukes their guts out on each other. This is a favorite of King’s to read at live events and benefits, which he did at one I attended last summer as well as others available by recording. Well worth reading or listening too… a total riot.
By the way, the spot illustration at the top of this blog post was one I did for National Geographic for Kids a few years ago that accompanied a sidebar about odd Guiness Book of World Record’s entries. This guy used to hold the world record at hot dog eating.
755 My cover art for the next issue of MAD, exclusive sneak peek from @entertainmentweekly website
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