This just in: All Americans are athletes! The Hot Dog Eating contest* was broadcast last Sunday on ESPN, and got some play in all the major newspapers. The San Francisco Chronicle even noted the broadcast of the contest in their daily sports TV log under the title of “Eating.” It was right there with “Cycling”, “Soccer” and the other so-called sports. I forgot to set the DVR.
Though it was touted as a “sporting event”, the SF Chronicle gave me confusion and dissonance by placing the final story of the event on page A-4 rather than in the Sports or Food Section. As a measure of the importance, It took up about a third of the page.
Finally, gustatory athletes are getting the respect and standing they so richly deserve. Eating IS a sport – fork, spoon, chopsticks, we have various categories for competition. Then of course there is the “finger food” category, which includes hot dogs.
The controversy surrounding the aftermath was made for the Maury Povich Show. It was reported that the defending champion** “crashed” the event afterward because he refused to sign a contract with “Major League Eating (MLE).” I also learned from the Chronicle that (MLE) is the fast-food equivalent to the National Football League (NFL), our national sport.
I suppose the point of all this is that stuffing as many hot dogs into one’s mouth as possible in 10 minutes is good, clean, healthy fun, and that all young Americans should aspire to such ambitions. If you get really good at it, you can turn pro and sign endorsement contracts. After all, eaters are athletes. That means that roughly 99.9999% of Americans are considered athletes. Now our perception is changing. Obesity and digestive nightmares are merely part of the game, like a sprained ankle from a basketball game. Oh, those heroic war wounds.
Name me one other sporting event where the traditional celebration involves hoisting a bottle of Pepto-Bismal. I thought the milk thing at the Indy 500 was creepy, but Pepto-Bismal? Sounds like a gag on the old “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.” I’m left wondering why is it taking the SF Chronicle so long to hire a full-time “Eating” reporter? Maybe it’s because their sports section has a conflict of interest with their food editors. Now, I understand why this ended up in the front section rather than the Sports or Food Section; it was a compromise so the department editors would stop fighting over it.
*I refuse to ID or dignify the corporate sponsor.
**I refuse to ID or dignify him either.
Scott Prostermanis a music, film and dance historian in Berkeley. He worked as a disc jockey in Pittsburgh and Memphis, where he grew up and where it all began. He was born in the 50s, grew up in the 60s, thrived in the 70s, barely survived the 80s, and re-grouped in the 90s.