Remember the 1970s (and maybe early-80s) television commercial that incorporated baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet as everyday symbols of Americana? We likely didn't pay it much mind at the time, but two of the four are food.
So here we sit a quarter-century later a fatter nation having given in to the wordless coaxing of drive-thru windows, touch-tone pizza delivery and value menus. At our present rate of glutinousness, by 2030 the United States is going to be globally referred to as the good old red, white and blew up. Stars and Crepes Forever, baby.
Anyway, I'm flipping channels the day we turned the Big 2-3-3 and what do I see but the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest from Coney Island, N.Y. Perfect. Nothing says America these days more than a guy from our country attempting to scarf down more hot dogs over a 12-minute span than some Japanese guy with a funky haircut and a bunch of overweight pretenders yearning for their 11 seconds of national air time.
"Sis, did you see me? Yeah, I was on. My face was painted and I had ketchup stains on my sleeveless white T-shirt. It was awesome. I taped it so don't worry. I'll get you a copy."
If there is a positive, it's that Paul Page, who I thought was dead, provided the riveting pregame commentary, not to mention play-by-play of every bun-swallowing second of competition. Turns out Page isn't deceased. Just his career.
In the end, Joey Chestnut, the pride of (at least for a day) San Jose, elevated the hot dog-eating bar by gobbling 68, a new world record, to take home $20,000 and the coveted Mustard Belt. Six-time weenie whiz kid Takeru Kobayashi of Japan took second with 64½, while some stiff I've never heard of and with far too much time on his hands came in third.
I suppose there is something freakishly inspiring about someone who can deposit an average of 5.7 hot dogs into his stomach every 60 seconds. I'm 6-5, 210, and two hot dogs usually does the trick. Three would have me stretched out on the couch, while consuming the unthinkable — four — would have be leaning over a trash can and cursing the hot dog gods.
But for the love of Frank(furter), can we please stop treating this competition as a sport and broadcasting it on an all-sports network like ESPN? Football is a sport. Basketball and baseball, too. Golf, tennis, hockey and a whole bunch of others joined this fraternity generations ago. Hot dogs . . . that's eating. Nothing more, nothing less.
America's pants size is growing daily, so much so that it's rumored the Statue of Liberty was spotted recently shopping for sansabelt pants. We should probably cease glorifying food-eating competitions as it's sending the wrong message to the impressionable children of this once-svelte nation.
Yes, I, too, have been impacted by what played out before me. I'm headed to the gym to work out.