Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I'm embarrassed for my fellow fat-ass man after stumbling across a qualifying heat on the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Championship Circuit this afternoon. It's bad enough that we – who are no longer under the influence of our college fraternities – made a contest out of who could stuff the most hot dogs in their fat face, and it's even worse that "competative eaters" call it a sport, instead of one of the deadly sins. But I despair because of the spectators gathered around. There had to be at least a hundred people standing around, all of whom couldn't find anything better to do in the whole wide world than watch guys eat.

I didn't stick for the eat-off because – and this surprised me – there's a lot of tedious pre-game show that goes into an eating contest. You'd think everybody could just walk up to the table, and “On your mark, get set, go!” but no. We need to be introduced to the competitors, like we give a shit. The only competitive eater who was even mildly interesting was Kobayashi, and only because he was so much smaller but so much "better" than everyone else competing. So even he doesn't need an introduction, just a leaderboard.

But anyway, we're introduced to these total drains on our healthcare system – I mean, it's your Medicare dollars that are gonna be paying for the inevitable massive cardiac failure you get from eating three dozen nitrate-filled fake-beef sausages in ten minutes – and even that's disappointing. You're probably aware that the hot dog eating world championships, or whatever, are held on the Fourth of July down at Coney Island, where the original Nathan's stand is. What you probably don't know, unless you make trips to South Brooklyn for some reason, is that, thanks to complicated socio-economic factors, modern Coney Island is a faded relic of its old glory. Before we as a society were inundated with television-on-demand and special-effects crammed blockbuster movies, Coney Island functioned as this sort of half-beach, half traveling-carnival production. The people working the Coney Island booths were showmen, and when a carney told you that the law said he has to charge five dollars for you to see the two-headed man, but just for you, he'll charge three, you'd suspend your disbelief. That was the point. Now, it's just some dippy high school kid looking for extra money, too jaded to put on a show, and the whole experience is just perfunctory. With that in mind, three words: Worst. Announcer. Ever.

He thought he was the announcer for a boxing match or something, but he came off more like a guy trying to sell Dr. Murray's Zinc Sulfate Cure-All Miracle Solution. Fine, he knew how dopey this whole thing was, made tragically worse by the fact that each of the competitors had a ridiculous back story, bur really, dude, you're standing up on your dais, reading from your index card, and all you gotta do is sound a little excited. Our first eater was some woman, and what I got from her backstory was that she's a woman, and she stuffs food down her gullet, and she's a woman. Frankly, I'm relieved to know that being a total pig isn't gender specific.

Contestant number two was an old guy, and there was this whole spiel about how he always ate a lot, but he never heard of competitive eating, then his wife told him about it and that he had to compete, so he trained and eventually won in the seniors' divison or something and here he is... except since he's old, he can't hear his name when it's called, so we're all literally waiting like five minutes before one of the other competitors taps him on the shoulder and tells him to go out. And yet this is still more exciting than baseball.

Oh, did I mention that all the competitors stand at this long table, but all the hot dogs are on a different table, and they have to be carried from one table to the other one competitor at a time, while everyone's watching. Because this isn't drawn out long enough.

The third contestant was some guy with a sad story. Here's what the announcer had to say, and I swear I'm not making this up: “Competitor number three had a tragic upbringing...” Aww, what could've possibly happened to him? Did he grow up somewhere there was no food, yet he managed to overcome the limitations of not having any food and made it to the top ranks of competitive eaters? Not quite. “...yet today, he has triumphed over adversity. He was born without tonsils.” What?! He was born without a vestigal organ! This is when I left, because honestly, I couldn't deal with this dude's childhood suffering, all those times with his tonsils not getting infected and needing to be removed.

Now, if he climbed the ranks of competitive eating despite being born without a mouth, that would be something worth watching.