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On the competitive eating trail
November 12, 2012 6:20 AM   Subscribe

"Everyone, since the dawn of time, has eaten or they've perished," Sam says. "But that man is the best eater who has ever lived, in the history of the world."
posted by Chrysostom (42 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
I love Jon Ronson, and met him a week or so ago. I read all of his stuff in his fantastic voice, which is both fun and kind of distracting.
posted by nevercalm at 6:31 AM on November 12, 2012


The thing is, most of those people have eaten and they've perished. What about that, Sam?! Your food won't save you now! Also, I really didn't need to see an American flag speedo on a competitive eater this morning.
posted by sysinfo at 6:32 AM on November 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


Great article. It takes a good reporter to take something as objectively strange as professional eating contestants and not make it into a freakshow.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:33 AM on November 12, 2012


Also, I appreciate the fact that while it's written in that New Yorker style of article, it doesn't take 10,000 words when a 1,000 are sufficient to cover the subject.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:33 AM on November 12, 2012


The truth is, rarely have I done a story about something that's so utterly, existentially pointless and so emblematic of the American tendency to go way too far.
posted by T.D. Strange at 6:34 AM on November 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm going to puke just thinking about the courageousness of it
posted by growabrain at 6:35 AM on November 12, 2012


That is queasy-inducing.
posted by Forktine at 6:36 AM on November 12, 2012


I once read that two of the food categories in competitive eating are mayonnaise and butter.

I wish I could un-read that.
posted by bardic at 6:49 AM on November 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


The sport will always be a joke until they standardize on one food and reign in the cheating. Simply pick one food, we don't need a wing champ, and jalapeño champ, and hot dog champ. Do it by weight not number of items consumed. Something not super hard to chew. Something that they can't throw on the the ground instead of eat. Maybe something like Oat Meal. Until we get some stats besides number of items eaten it will always be a sideshow.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:03 AM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Seems to me the "best eater" would be the person who enjoyed the food the most, but I guess it's hard to enjoy food competitively.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 7:07 AM on November 12, 2012


"Soon Joey is swallowed by the crowd, and I lose sight of him."
Swallowed by the crowd? Nice to see that there is some audience participation.
posted by TDavis at 7:09 AM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


That was really well written.
posted by codacorolla at 7:10 AM on November 12, 2012


but I guess it's hard to enjoy food competitively.

You merely enjoy food? I enjoy local artisanal food, made from scratch with in-season, farm-sourced ingredients curated by internationally renowned experts in crowd-sourced organic locavore heritage foods.
posted by Forktine at 7:12 AM on November 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


And I poop carbon-neutral.
posted by Forktine at 7:15 AM on November 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


I bet this guy could have beaten him.
posted by sensate at 7:17 AM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


It was worth reading to the end just to find the line: "Soon Joey is swallowed by the crowd,".....

or, what TDavis said....

I'm going to make a hot dog, anyone want to join me?
posted by HuronBob at 7:17 AM on November 12, 2012


Kobayashi, meanwhile, hasn't competed in an IFOCE-sanctioned contest since 2009, the year he finished second to Joey at Nathan's for the third time in a row. ("Kobayashi won't talk to me," Joey says. "He hates me.") I assume this is due to his shame over becoming second best, but when I reach him on the phone, he denies this. Through an interpreter, he tells me that the Sheas "love to say, 'Kobi isn't man enough to eat up against our dude Chestnut.' But it has never been that. They wanted me to sign a contract that gave away all my human rights!" The IFOCE contract, he says, forbade him from competing in any non-Shea contests, which he took as a declaration of war. Nowadays, Kobayashi is still a draw, but he exists in a parallel universe of events that seem more about appearance fees and PR than official competition.

The dispute between Kobayashin and IFOCE/MLE previously on MeFi.
posted by TedW at 7:23 AM on November 12, 2012


I don't always eat, but when I do, I eat everything.
posted by ardgedee at 7:28 AM on November 12, 2012


Good one. I have a running list of responses to people who tell me overpopulation is a problem. Adding competitive eating. Thx.

Seems to me the "best eater" would be the person who enjoyed the food the most, but I guess it's hard to enjoy food competitively.

Yeah, "best" is a weird descriptor here. Fastest is much more appropriate, right? Are any of these not speed contests? ... anyway which way there's gonna be a time limit.

I gotta admit, one of the greatest "talent" acts I ever saw was a guy who tried to drink two two gallon jugs of milk in 10 minutes. Vomit everywhere. Probably spread 5-6 diseases that night.

And one of my easiest ever bets for taking money from underclassmen in high school was 6 krispy kreme glazed donuts in 1 minute in a half. It seems easy. They're so hot and good! I'll buy the donuts, but if you can't eat them in 1:30, you give me $10. I'll even let you drink milk while you do it. ;)
posted by mrgrimm at 7:37 AM on November 12, 2012


I enjoy local artisanal food, made from scratch with in-season, farm-sourced ingredients curated by internationally renowned experts in crowd-sourced organic locavore heritage foods.

I subsist entirely on tears wept by vegans contemplating the fates of factory-farmed calves, myself, but my natural modesty and disinclination to one-upsmanship forbid that I mention it.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 7:40 AM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, my mom always taught me not to play with my food. Unless it's kinky.
posted by mrgrimm at 7:50 AM on November 12, 2012


"I'd imagine it would be a turnoff," I say.

"Me, too." Bob shrugs. "But no."


Competitive eating is a window into the internet's soul.
posted by srboisvert at 7:51 AM on November 12, 2012


As someone who suffers from a hiatal hernia the whole concept of eating that much that fast scares me nigh unto death.
posted by Splunge at 7:55 AM on November 12, 2012


I was going to go with:

MetaFilter: They resemble sweaty, meat-smeared squirrels.

But then the very next sentence was 1,000 times more glorious:

MetaFilter: The sickly smell of fat permeates the hot air.

Gold. Gold, I tell you.
posted by The Bellman at 8:03 AM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's just gross.
posted by michellenoel at 8:05 AM on November 12, 2012


But that man is the best eater who has ever lived, in the history of the world.

quantity ≠ quality
posted by Thorzdad at 8:26 AM on November 12, 2012


You merely enjoy food? I enjoy local artisanal food, made from scratch with in-season, farm-sourced ingredients curated by internationally renowned experts in crowd-sourced organic locavore heritage foods.

Yaaaaaaawn.
posted by nowhere man at 8:47 AM on November 12, 2012


You merely enjoy food? I enjoy local artisanal food, made from scratch with in-season, farm-sourced ingredients curated by internationally renowned experts in crowd-sourced organic locavore heritage foods.

Dude, that won't even get you out of the Brooklyn qualifiers.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:51 AM on November 12, 2012 [10 favorites]


A decently written piece, but you'd think somewhere in there would be some insight into a fan's perspective. I mean, who are these people shouting "JO-EY, JO-EY, JO-EY!"? I admit to not understanding who would go see the Kentucky Derby or a NASCAR event, but even less so a competitive eating fan.
posted by kozad at 9:03 AM on November 12, 2012


> The sport will always be a joke until they standardize on one food and reign in the cheating. Simply pick one food, we don't need a wing champ, and jalapeño champ, and hot dog champ.

This is like how boxing wasn't taken seriously until the governing body established a single weight class and required the lighter boxers to wear sandbags on their belts and shoulders.
posted by ardgedee at 9:41 AM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


The best bit is about Bob Shoudt, whose wife helps him cheat when she realizes others are cheating:

"Oh, there's techniques," says Bob. "People suddenly get happy feet." He mimes an eater dropping an item of food and then covertly stamping it into the ground. I'm appalled. Cheating makes everything pointless. And then Bob confesses that—if need be—he will be one of those cheaters. When his wife is in the crowd, they use pre-arranged signals. "If the eaters are dropping stuff like crazy, she'll give a meaningless cheer. I'll understand. Suddenly the food gets very slippery for me."
posted by chavenet at 9:51 AM on November 12, 2012


Metafilter: Give a meaningless cheer.
posted by dubold at 10:01 AM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is like how boxing wasn't taken seriously until the governing body established a single weight class and required the lighter boxers to wear sandbags on their belts and shoulders.

It is more like we don't have weight classes down to the fraction of an ounce so that everyone gets to be the champion of the world.

Hell, do three foods or four foods. As it is there isn't even standardization among food items. You really think each of those sandwiches weight the same?
posted by Ad hominem at 10:31 AM on November 12, 2012


Stuffing yourself like a deranged slob is sirius bizness.
posted by Splunge at 10:40 AM on November 12, 2012


These guys obviously didn't get a chance to meet André Roussimoff.
posted by Sphinx at 10:58 AM on November 12, 2012


Competitive eating: there's nothing more American than wasting food. Altho I do absolutely love the terms for a disqualifying occurrance of spontaneous regurgitation - a "Reversal of Fortune", or "Roman Incident".
posted by FatherDagon at 11:04 AM on November 12, 2012


Mr. Creosote's got em all covered.

WARNING: disgusting
posted by philip-random at 2:05 PM on November 12, 2012


I would (not actually) pay and (almost certainly not) watch if they introduced a wafer-thin mint event. In which the contestants have to take each one individually, unwrap it and pop it delicately into their mouths. It would take months. In fact, the natural process of evacuation might mean that it ended up, net, as a "who can starve slowest" contest, rather than "who can eat most".
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:34 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


How about something like celery, which essentially results in "negative calories." First one to completely wither away is declared the winner.
posted by ShutterBun at 6:13 PM on November 12, 2012


These guys obviously didn't get a chance to meet André Roussimoff.--Sphinx

And Tarrare was too long before their time.
posted by eye of newt at 7:26 PM on November 12, 2012


The truth is, rarely have I done a story about something that's so utterly, existentially pointless and so emblematic of the American tendency to go way too far.

Is it an American-only sport, though?

A more charitable interpretation - which, if you're a reporter feeling grossed out, I can understand you not inclining towards - might be that it's emblematic of the human tendency to experiment, play, test, challenge oneself, collaborate with and perform for and compare oneself to others, and try to make some kind of art form out of whatever we do.

I mean, I wouldn't want to attend one of these contests myself and the health risks seem, well, there, but taking a necessity and getting creative with it is the reason we have nice things. It's a various and fascinating world out there, and that's because of the same 'tendency' that gives us eating contests.
posted by Kit W at 3:21 AM on November 13, 2012


Is it an American-only sport, though?

Aw, heck no. Kobayashi Takeru didn't appear out of a vacuum. Competitive eating contest specials have been broadcast on Japanese television during prime time since at least the mid90s. One big difference is that they're television specials, not restaurant events, so there are multiple rounds, with different foods for each round. That means the winner is not just "the fastest hot dog eater", but the fastest overall eater.
posted by Bugbread at 4:19 AM on November 14, 2012


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