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A Proud Tradition?

 

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.

About Paprika Furstenburg

I was born with an overly developed sense of humor and poor coordination. The combination of these two character traits has taught me humility and given me the perspective to find the funny in everyday experiences.

16 responses »

  1. Paprika – you make an excellent point of observation. I, too, have often wondered what happens to the winner AFTER the contest. And this would not entice me to eat a mystery meat dog either but it’s like watching a train wreck – you look but don’t believe what you’re seeing.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Margie. I really do have a morbid fascination with the hot dog contest. I’m totally disgusted, but can’t look away. One year we were flying home from vacation on the 4th of July and were having something to eat in the Denver airport. The contest was on the TV in the bar/restaurant and it was so amusing to watch the reactions of the other restaurant patrons watching the contest.

      Reply
  2. Like you, we wonder how long must they keep the food down – the contest people seem to move in pretty fast to give the winner the prize….now the 24 hours after the contest – that would be a reality show….
    It’s just so weird…

    Reply
  3. This wouldn’t appeal to me. Maybe 69 ice creams … but, hot dogs? Nah!

    You’re right, Paprika. That winning Nathan’s belt better be expandable. I also hope that part of the prize is Alka Selzer for the winner who “can’t believe I ate the whole thing.” 😉

    Reply
    • I’m not sure there is any food I would want to cram down my throat in such a short period of time.

      I love your idea of sponsorship by Alka Seltzer. During the contest, I don’t think I saw a single commercial for Alka Seltzer or any other “digestive aid”. That is a missed opportunity.

      Reply
  4. Those contests are fascinating, aren’t they? Personally,I can’t even fathom eating one hot dog! Yuk!

    Reply
    • The contests are fascinating in the same realm as watching a train wreck. As we listen to the announcer introducing each contestant, I am amazed at the wide variety of speed eating competitions there are. Thankfully, the hot dog eating contest on the 4th of July is the only one that’s televised.

      Reply
  5. I don’t get the appeal of speed-eating either, Paprika; given that there are so many hungry people out there, I don’t think this ‘sport’ should even exist, never mind be part of a country’s culture.

    I struggle too with the popularity of ‘food fights’, which feature in so many American movies and sitcoms. Seriously?! Who came up with the idea that it’s fun – and acceptable – to throw perfectly good edible food (sometimes – ostensibly – lovingly prepared by mom after several hours in the kitchen) at each other?

    Reply
  6. We had a hot dog eating contest one year at our company picnic. I banned it the next year because it was gross. We limited it to 2 minutes because I didn’t want any barfing. Some 16 year old son of an employee won by dipping the dog and bun in water first. Can’t remember how many he ate but it was closer to 12 than 69. One contestant ate 2. I thought she was the smartest!

    Reply
    • I can’t even imagine eating that many hot dogs or that much of anything at one time.

      It wouldn’t occur to me to dunk the dog and bun in water, but almost all of the contestants yesterday did the same thing. Way to make some gross even more disgusting.

      Reply

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