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Live Eat

BY RICH HERSCHLAG
07.27.2007 | SOCIETY

I skipped watching the Coney Island Hot Dog-eating contest this year. This is not an event I relish. That said, this is a sport that takes guts, and millions of Americans with guts of their own tune in. Some people just can't seem to get enough of the egg-swallowing scene in the movie Cool Hand Luke. And we wonder why other countries hate us.

Apparently, it's okay to be outthought, outworked, outdone, and outclassed, but God forbid you are out-eaten. There is nothing worse in America than coming home from the big nosh less bloated than your opponent. It's hard to even look your morbidly obese parents in the eye.

Though some find it hard to swallow, we have seen the future of American sports, and it is a wiener. Finally, a sport that makes poker look athletic. Big pot or big pot belly -- pick one. But in the intense world of pro sports, the game must evolve in order to thrive. Unless they can find some viable way to combine competitive eating with a record-setting roller coaster marathon, they're not really taking full advantage of the Coney Island experience. Speaking of which, how about competitive shtupping? They can hold that one under the boardwalk. If it's a tie, they can hold a rubber match.

Moreover, arbitrarily awarding this noble competition to Coney Island every year encourages slothfulness. If nations can vie to host the Olympics, why not competitive eating and a whole array of other gluttonous, revolting contests? Rotating the venue (think Darfur, Somalia, Mali, Iraq) can only add cachet.

Naturally, as competitive eating finds its niche, it will undergo the usual corporate evolution. Critical to this marketing is a one-word name for the sport: glomming, gorging, scarfing. Teams will emerge: the Philadelphia Cheesesteaks, the Boston Chowder Champs, the Hartford Hogs, the Pittsburgh Pigs, the Portland Portlies, the Florida Flatulators, the Harrisburg Heifers, the Los Angeles Lardasses, the Denver Doughboys, the Corpus Christi Corpulents.

Specialized stadiums funded by public bond issues will spring up everywhere -- wholesome family-oriented places where mom and dad and the kids can root on their favorite gorgers while stuffing their own faces with fried dough. Krispy Kreme will be the official donut of the American Gorging League (AGL), and superstars like Kobayashi will grace the packaging. Forget bat day, batting glove day, and bobblehead day. AGL franchises will sponsor trans fat day, love handle day, and cellulite nite. The league will promote the growth of the sport at a grassroots level. Vomitoriums will dot this great land of ours, and before long, there will be a huge youth movement.

Of course, while competitive eating rubs salt in the wounds of millions of starving people all over the world, the only way to rub pure iodine in those same wounds is a food fight. A genuine, well-organized food fight is clearly a more efficient, thorough, selfish, indefensible waste of food than competitive eating ever can be. With a food fight, there is no reasonable chance that even a small portion will reach the digestive tract of a competitor or any other living being for that matter. Food fighting is a pastime for purists. All you need are a cafeteria, a few trays, and a dedicated group of young men and women who have seen Animal House a few times too many.

Welcome to mega-consumerism, where simple conspicuous consumption is no longer enough. Competitive tanning, anyone? First freckle to metastasize wins. In competitive bleeding, medieval heeling techniques are utilized, as would-be hemophiliacs square off in a thrilling death match that won't leave a dry eye in the house. Did we mention competitive brushing? Even better with Chinese toothpaste.

How about competitive purging? David Blaine can host. Nicole Ritchie, Lindsay Lohan, and Mary-Kate Olsen will judge. Here's my vote for competitive meth smoking. That, of course, can be consolidated with competitive shtupping. Lest we forget competitive defecating. Actually, we've had competitive defecating for quite some time now. It's called cable television. The point is, there are still six other deadly sins available for franchising. This was just the appetizer.

About the Author
Rich Herschlag is the author of a new book, Before the Glory: 20 Baseball Heroes Talk About Growing Up and Turning Hard Times Into Home Runs (HCI, 2007). His other books include Lay Low and Don't Make the Big Mistake (Simon & Schuster, 1997) and Women Are From Manhattan, Men Are From Brooklyn (Black Maverick, 2002).

Also an engineer, he runs a consulting business, Turnkey Structural, that specializes in the rehabilitation of residential and commercial buildings. Also a radio commentator, he can be visited at RichsRant.com.

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