It’s Independence Day – America’s birthday. The Fourth of July evokes memories of fireworks, backyard barbecues and a sense of pride in America. What could make us prouder to be American than an annual hot dog eating contest?
I don’t know why I am fascinated by this yearly 4th of July tradition. A group of strangers in front of a crowd shoving hot dogs and buns down their gullets as fast as possible, shouldn’t pique my interest, but I get sucked in every year. I watch the contest with equal parts disgust, nausea and amazement. I’m sure it generates business for Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs, but it does absolutely nothing to make me want to eat a hot dog.
To be fair, I don’t understand the concept of competitive eating. This famous contest is a glimpse into the very full underbelly of that world. Just because you can chew and swallow doesn’t mean you can compete in this contest. Competitors train for months and must qualify to participate in this televised main event. As the competitors take their positions on the podium, their previous eating accolades are announced. I had no idea so many foods could be eaten competitively: oysters, pizza, jalapenos & chicken wings. I had no idea anyone would want to eat those foods competitively.
I’ve seen a documentary on competitive eating and training for the contests, but what I’d really like to see is a documentary that follows the winners to see what happens during the 24 hours after the contest. Sure, it’s interesting to watch someone eat 69 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes. But, it would be more fascinating to see what happens to that person when the chewing and the fanfare stop. Part of the contest rules are that contestants must “keep the hot dogs and buns down.” How long must they stay down? How do the hot dogs and buns exit the contestant? When is that person hungry enough to eat again?
The male and female winners of the competition are always interviewed. They look full of adrenaline and questionable meat. While it is interesting to hear about their winning strategy, what I’d really like to see are interviews with the losers. How do you feel about yourself mentally and physically after you’ve spent months training then eaten 68 hot dogs and buns and walked away a loser? Talk about the agony of defeat.
The winner of this famous competition gets a cash prize and a bejeweled belt. I sure hope it’s expandable.