Friday, July 29, 2005

Mmmm...International Federation of Competitive Eating

After an eventful post-work afternoon, I managed to find my way to ESPN2 to watch the first round of the US Open of competitive Eating. It was held in the second week of July, though the first round wasn't aired until last night, with the remaining rounds airing tonight and tomorrow - Isn't cable wonderful? The first round features plates of cheese fries from the ESPNZone in Las Vegas. The rules are simple: Whoever eats the most cheese fries in 5 minutes moves on to the next round to "enjoy" some other delicacy like spaghetti and meatballs. Just like the NCAA basketball tournament, there are has single elimination matches. As in the famous hot dog eating contest held on July 4th at Coney Island, the most important rule is a contestant is eliminated when he or she experiences a "Reversal of Fortune", also known as throwing up, regurgitation, barfing, vomiting, puking, spewing, upchucking, and disgorging, etc.

Takeru Kobayashi and Sonya Thomas are perennial favorites in the tournament. Kobayashi is known for the hot dog record of 53.5 dogs and buns in 12 minutes while Sonya holds the American record around 34. The profiles of the top 20 eaters are as interesting as they are disgusting. Some records I've come to appreciate (since all of us could recreate these at home ) include:
  • 7 quarter-pound sticks, salted butter in 5 minutes
  • 49 glazed donuts in 8 minutes
  • 65 Hard Boiled Eggs in 6 minutes, 40 seconds (by Sonya no less)
  • Hamentaschen - 50 traditional Purim cookies in 6 minutes (my favorite)
  • Ice Cream - 1 gallon, 9 ounces of vanilla ice cream in 12 minutes (not for a lactard like myself)
  • Matzo Balls, 21 baseball-sized in 5 minutes 25 seconds
  • 4 32-ounce bowls mayonnaise in 8 minutes

When you look at the top eaters in the world (like Kobayashi above), it's surprising that several of them look in good shape considering the calories they inhale each contest. Further, with Kobayashi's hot dog dominance, it's any wonder why the larger contestants like Eric "Badlands" Booker don't do better. The medical theory is that thinner contestants have less fat around their stomach so it can expand further than the stomachs of heavier contestants, which have more fat around that area. The extra fat makes it more difficult to stomach (sorry about the pun) anymore food, while the skinny people can keep going. Eating contests are huge events in Japan so many "athletes" compete over there most of the year, but the prize money has been increasing in the states.

I love watching these contests and wouldn't mind finding out just how much food I could eat in one sitting if I pushed myself. I think some contestants simply choose foods nobody else has tried in order to get another record. There's no record for oreo cookies or slices of bread, so I'll just make my own rules and set the eating record by default. Also, what happens to these people in the 24 hours following a contest? Do they make themselves experience a "reversal of fortune" or simply deal with the digestive agony all day long? I know I'm not the only one fascinated by the post-contest results.

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