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Gurgitators, grandstanders, and the poor

February 24, 2012
By Wes Burns , Times-Republican

Why aren't there more televised eating competitions?

Sure we get the perfunctory broadcast of the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest by our friends at ESPN but that's just once a year. How am I supposed to keep up to date with the Sport of Kings with only one annual viewing?

How will I know if Takeru Kobayashi, Nathan's champion (2001-2006) is set to chow down against usurper Joey Chestnut?

Will the International Federation of Competitive Eating (IFOCE) ever reconcile with the renegade Arnie "Chowhound" Chapman and his secessionist Association of Independent Competitive Eaters (AICE)?

Will they finally outlaw the unscrupulous practice of "chipmunking?"

These are the questions left unanswered without continuous coverage of the sport.

Frankly, 2012 is the best chance competitive eating has to make a comeback. The Nathan's Contest found its footing during the First Depression, when the destitute citizenry would gather around to watch a bunch of guys eat hundreds of hot dogs in 12 minutes. It seems the worse the economy gets, the more people want to watch competitive eating.

So if it worked in the First Depression, why not in the Second?

Yeah, someday they'll call these years the Second Depression.

When you don't have anything it can be fun to watch people who have everything; whether it be a guy who has all the hot dogs, a billionaire who yells at millionaires about how they're bad at business, or just a bunch of movie stars buy thousands of dollars worth of clothes, only to wear them once and never again.

Why, yes, the Oscars are this Sunday, aren't they?

So what you're telling me is that while I can't turn on my TV and see Rich "The Locust" LeFevre eat 1.5 gallons of chili in 10 minutes but I CAN see the reanimated corpse of Joan Rivers frighten the stars of Hollywood with her native cry of "Who are you wearing?!"

Hollywood is about escapism, so is competitive eating. I know that I shouldn't eat 50 hot dogs in 12 minutes, just as I know that I shouldn't think I can travel back in time just by driving 88 mph.

I would need a flux capacitor, of course, and the requisite number of gigawatts.

But starting this Sunday we will be inundated with Oscar coverage; it probably started a week ago if you watch E!

Who will win Best Picture? Will someone be in the bathroom when their name is called? Who will look the best? Who will be the last person featured in the "In Memoriam" reel?

That last one was real. People are really guessing which deceased Hollywood player will be featured last.

The smart money is on Elizabeth Taylor. Or bin Laden. They always just pick the most famous person.

The name that should be on the end of the list is George Eastman. Eastman wasn't an actor or even a director, he was the guy that founded Kodak. You remember them? The guys that made film? Film for cameras? Like, movie cameras?

Maybe you would recognize Kodak's name from the Kodak Theatre, the place were they hold the Oscars. Or, they did, until Kodak filed for bankruptcy in January. Now the theatre is called the "Hollywood and Highland Center."


But this is the world we live in here in the Second Depression: Hundred year old companies fall by the wayside, glitzy stars distract us with phony awards, and somewhere a man is about to eat his fourth pound of corned beef hash in five minutes and it isn't popular enough to get on TV.

Maybe next year.


Copy Editor Wes Burns is a Friday columnist. The views expressed in this column are personal views of the writer and don't necessarily reflect the views of the T-R. Contact Wes Burns at 641-753-6611 or



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