The Thinker

Competitive Eating: I Want to Throw Up

In the perfect world, certain sports would be everywhere illegal. Humanity would have fully ascended out of the primordial muck from which we evolved. We would have reached some sort of dignified plateau. Bullfighting would be banned not just for being cruel and inhumane to the bull, but also because no decent human being would want to see it. By implication, the annual running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, to be held in a few days on July 7th, would also be outlawed. I personally find boxing very offensive. I hope in time that more of my fellow citizens will share my view and outlaw it within the United States. We should not encourage people to beat up on other people for money. From reading The Washington Post, I recently learned of this web site. On it, you can watch people inspired by the movie Fight Club beat up each other. It strikes me as odd that while we can get so upset by hardcore pornography, few of us have problems with the pervasive violence in our sports, movies and now online.

Alas, we are also a nation that believes in liberty. Although we have laws that put many things consenting adults do off limits, or make them at least heavily restricted (gambling comes to mind) we tolerate and even enthusiastically support sports like boxing that should have us feeling queasy in the stomach. I know I felt queasy in the stomach today watching a competitive eating event today on ESPN.

In competitive eating contests (incase you are unfamiliar with the “sport”) participants compete to try to ingest the largest amount of a particular type of food in a limited amount of time. Today Takeru Kobayashi of Japan, age 27, devoured 53 and 3/4 hot dogs in twelve minutes. In doing so, he won a competitive eating event on Coney Island sponsored by the hot dog manufacturer Nathan’s. Incidentally, this was a new record for him, but it was not the first time he won this event. He last won it two years ago, but this year he also managed to consume ¼ more of a hot dog for a new personal record. Woo hoo!

53 and 3/4 hot dogs consumed in 12 minutes. That is about four and a half hot dogs per minute, or one hot dog every 13-14 seconds. I would guess that you would need hyperactive salivary glands to compete “professionally” in this sport. I have to assume these competitive eaters do not do this every day, because Mr. Kobayashi is only 160 pounds. I do not know how long this “sport” has been in existence, but I fear for the health of those who engage in it. Do they put mustard and catsup on those hot dogs? I am not sure how many calories are in a Nathan’s hot dog, but a typical hot dog has 240 calories and 15 grams of fat. Many hot dogs are also loaded with salt and other nasty chemicals. A hot dog bun contains 80-110 calories. Each contestant has to consume the hot dog and the bun. Figure 100 calories per bun and we have 18,275 calories that were consumed by Mr. Kobayashi in 12 minutes. Along with those calories, add in about 806 grams of fat. To put it another way, in 12 minutes he consumed 1.8 pounds of fat alone.

I sure hope most of these calories are not absorbed and instead are passed out by the body. I do not think I would want to share a restroom with one of these competitive eaters for several days after the event, that is for sure. However, it is hard for me to imagine that anyone can put that much food into body in such a short time and not cause risk major complications. Assuming you do not throw much of it up after the event (which in itself sounds dangerous), how on earth is your digestive system supposed to digest that much food? How much bile and insulin can the body create to consume one meal? Maybe I don’t want to know the answer.

Ironically, I watched this event on television while at the health club today. Yes, the Gold’s Gym where I work out has many televisions to distract us. We burn off calories on the various elliptical, walking, running and stair climbing machines while staring at whatever is on the TV. Once on a machine though you are a bit loathe to move off an on to another machine because you don’t like the show on the television in front of you. So there I was watching ESPN, expecting to see some muscles vigorously exercised by athletes in top form. Instead, I watched a competitive eating event. Perhaps in this sport you develop amazing biceps from moving all that food into your mouth in such a short period.

All I know is that after a minute or so I had to look away. I just could not take it anymore. I was feeling sick. I am not one of these people who believe that pornography is obscene, but I witnessed obscenity today on ESPN. They call it entertainment and a sport, but in reality, it was just sickening and nauseating to watch. I realize Nathan’s is in the business to make money and events like this help their bottom line, but is it absolutely necessary for the company to sponsor an event like this? Suddenly I have new respect for Oscar Meyer unless, of course, they are engaged in sponsoring their own competitive eating events. I do not recall if I ever ate a Nathan’s Hot Dog. I do not care how terrific they may taste. I do know that from now on I will avoid them as long as they are sponsoring “sports” like this. I think they should be ashamed of themselves. In addition, ESPN should be ashamed to broadcast a sport like this. What is next, a competitive eating event where contestants try to down the largest number of Tim Horton doughnuts in twelve minutes? (Homer Simpson, I am sure, would want to participate.) Should we expect medals for competitive eating at future Olympics?

At the very least, these contests are exercises in bad taste. At their worst they promote a practice that is likely quite dangerous and should not be encouraged. If, in order to be the land of liberty, we have to allow competitive eating contests, can we at least do it somewhere away from the cameras?

Since it is the Fourth of July, hot dogs are what’s for dinner in our house tonight. They do not look quite so appetizing to me now. Fortunately, they are Hebrew National.

 

One Response to “Competitive Eating: I Want to Throw Up”

  1. 11:16 am on August 16 2006, Tom Tuttle said:

    What? The World Health Organization just released the fact the 400 children die every day due to illness and disease caused by unsafe drinking water. In the U.S. so many people water their lawns or leave the sink running while brushing their teeth. What a waste of clean, treated water. YOU are wasting water that could be put to better use. You overlook this somehow to declare that 15 people wasted some hotdogs on the 4th of July?

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