Of hot dogs, Cokes and listening to Ozzie Guillen
BY RICK TELANDER firstname.lastname@example.org July 7, 2012 12:06AM
Competitive eater Joey Chestnut sucked down 68 hot dogs in 10 minutes Wednesday. | Getty Images
Updated: August 9, 2012 6:24AM
Joey Chestnut makes me want to barf.
I’m sorry for the indelicate language, but as a man who appreciates hot dogs for their heritage, ease of eating, seasonal symbolism, condiment potential, taste, texture and, yes, dubious meat-packing genesis, I can’t look at Chestnut cramming his maw with mutilated wieners and buns without revulsion.
‘‘Jaws,’’ as he is known (though ‘‘Hurl’’ would be more appropriate), forced 68 hot dogs down his gullet in 10 minutes Wednesday at the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island.
This is a sport, folks, with competing associations, rules, regulations, referees, championships, crowns and thousands of dollars in prize money. I’ll tell you what Chestnut looked like to me on instant replay, though, as he mashed gorp into his fishlike muzzle: a garbage grinder being fed pink slime with a ramrod.
I actually attended the contest, though I got there just after the main event, owing to a long subway ride from the other end of Brooklyn and the event being moved from 3 p.m. to noon to accommodate ESPN’s TV coverage. What I saw was the stage being disassembled as thousands of spectators still stood gawking at the scoreboard behind the platform.
I checked out the scene, preparing to order a hot dog or two from the jammed Nathan’s counters nearby, when I noticed a huge pink-colored, uh, mess on the asphalt just off the corner of the stage.
‘‘That’s not what I think it is,’’ I said to a sweaty, mean-looking cop guarding the stage.
‘‘No, it isn’t!’’ he barked.
A female construction worker, who was helping to take down the setup, looked at me and hinted I should take a hike.
Then she threw a beach towel over the patch, not coming close to covering it. It was like she was throwing a towel on crime-scene evidence.
There went my hot-dog appetite.
I caught up with pro eater Adrian Morgan, still wearing his Nathan’s T-shirt, looking grim, maybe ill. He finished sixth.
‘‘Thirty-five hot dogs,’’ he said. ‘‘My personal best.’’
I asked him in a roundabout way where his, um, payload was at that very moment. He was reluctant to continue the discussion.
See, here’s the deal with pro ‘‘eating’’: Anyone who suffers ‘‘a Roman incident’’ or ‘‘reversal of fortune’’ is disqualified — if it happens during the event. After the final bell? Bombs away. Garbage cans, look out.
If there were any integrity to the thing, the contestants would be watched for at least 12 hours in a containment area. Any reverse peristalsis, and it’s like you failed a drug test.
Folks, this isn’t a sport. It’s professional bulimia.
† ON FRIDAY, in the sweltering Chicago heat, I rode my bike to a nearby Burger King, ate some chow and drank a large Coke. How large? I took the cup home and measured it at 40 ounces. Not healthy, certainly.
But you know what? Too bad. It’s a free country. It’s my informed choice.
Now, had I drunk that 40-ounce Coke in New York in 2013, I would have been violating a law. I guess, technically, Burger King would have been breaking the law if it had served it to me. No sugary drinks of more than 16 ounces can be served in that helpful city.
Crazy, but New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg himself watched the Nathan’s puke-fest Wednesday with good cheer and a politician’s smile.
The hypocrisy here is manifest.
We know what’s coming. Banned boxes of donuts. Outlawed large or illegally marbled steaks. Black-market Hershey bars.
Taken to its extreme, the modern food-police movement will come to this daunting conundrum: Virtually everything we humans eat, ingested in varying gluttonous proportions, from hot dogs to chicken to celery to, yes, water, is deadly.
† THIS FROM the very funny, entertaining book Ozzie’s School of Management, written by my pal and fellow columnist Rick Morrissey, about everyone’s buddy, Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen:
‘‘I own Chicago,’’ Guillen said several years ago, and he wasn’t wrong. But can he own Miami? Not with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade around, but everyone will know he’s living there because of raised decibel levels. There are two words that, as far as anyone knows, have never escaped his lips in tandem: ‘‘No comment.’’