I admire a lot of competitive events. I have a lot of respect for folks who can gather with 50,000 other sweaty people and run down Peachtree Street on the Fourth of July. I really admire folks who take that even higher with competition in half-marathons and marathons.
I do not share that admiration for folks who participate in competitive eating contests.
A few years ago, I was at the Georgia National Fair in Perry, an event which all Georgians should attend. This particular year, they were holding a contest to see who could eat the most Krystal hamburgers.
For those of you who are not familiar, the Krystal is a small square hamburger with a thin slice of ground beef. Most folks can eat more than one.
According to Major League Eating, the outfit that sanctions these contests, a guy named Joey Chestnut ate 103 Krystal burgers in 8 minutes. After watching the competition, I could not eat one for about a week.
Joseph “Jaws” Christian Chestnut is a 33-year-old construction engineer from San Jose, Calif. He holds a number of food-consuming records, including the current champion of the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog competition held on July 4. Last year, he consumed 73.5 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes.
I don’t know what happened to the other half of number 74, nor do I want to.
The hot dog contest, held on New York’s Coney Island, is televised each year by ESPN. The S in ESPN stands for sports. I do not consider this a sport. Bear in mind, they also televise the National Spelling Bee.
Joey consumed 118 jalapeno poppers in a 10-minute contest in 2006. In 2011, he downed 23 6-inch Philly cheese steak sandwiches. He ate 62 pulled pork sliders in 10 minutes. In 2007, he had 45 pulled pork sandwiches in 10 minutes. He holds 43 records.
By the way, 10 minutes seems to be the standard unit of measurement of eating time.
What is amazing about these competitive eaters is none of them appear to be overweight. Some of them are downright skinny.
Chestnut is followed in the rankings by Matt Stonie, who also has consumed mass quantities of food including 182 strips of bacon in five minutes and 14.5 pounds of birthday cake in eight minutes. Matt turned pro in 2011 and is also from San Jose.
The leading woman competitor is Miki Sudo, who has consumed 40 hot dogs and buns, as well as 7.5 pounds of deep fried asparagus. Not at the same time. According to her information, she is 30 years old and weighs 125 pounds.
The news, unfortunately, is not always good.
Caitlin Nelson, a 20-year-old student at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut, died recently after choking on pancakes at a campus eating contest.
If that’s not bad enough, her father was a police officer with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and was killed on 9/11.
There are people in all parts of the world who would be delighted to have one hot dog or a cheese steak sandwich. Watching somebody gorge themselves is not pleasant to watch, and it is wasteful.
Perhaps this unfortunate incident in Connecticut should tell us there are better things to do with our time.
Unfortunately, it won’t.
Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.