the "sport" of competitive eating

In Monday's Globe and Mail I read an article titled, Fame and (gluttonous) glory.

The piece was a condensed interview with Meredith Boxberger from Barrie, Ontario – ranked 31 in the world by Major League Eating – who will be competing at Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island, N.Y.

I don't get it.

People choose to do this.  Willingly, they shove as much food into their bodies as they can to see who can get the most in there, the fastest.

I just don't get it.

In a world of starvation, famine, food banks, malnutrition, undernourishment, how does this even exist?   It's disgusting.

The article asked Ms. Boxberger: Is there any money in competitive eating, or is it just a passion thing?

A passion thing?

I did a small survey and asked a few people what their passion was. They said: gardening, writing, film, the forest, education, music, golf, travel, hunting for the next vintage find, politics, ice cream, soccer, motorcycles.

Not one person said competitive eating.

No one even said food.  That's me.  I love food.  I love eating.  And if you ask my husband, he might say that sitting across from me with a basket of fries between us qualifies for competitive eating. 

I love to cook and bake and try new recipes. And I consider myself fortunate to have access to, and can afford to buy, all kinds foods.  I am lucky that I get to experiment as much as I do.

I like to eat things like collard greens (pictured above), quinoa, amaranth, beets, brussel sprouts, dandelion greens.  Don't get me wrong I love my fries and popcorn and ice cream as much as the next person.  I just don't see the need to shovel as much of it, as fast as I can, into my face in order to...well that's just it.

In order to what?

Have some serious indigestion? Feel like crap?  Prove that I am an asshole with nothing better to do with my time?

Google "competitive eating" and you'll get close to three million hits, of which the first is Major League Eating and The International Federation of Competitive Eating.

I had no idea.

Theses folks conduct approximately 80 events annually and the first sponsor listed is Procter & Gamble (Pepto-Bismol).  Major League Eating has produced dozens of hours of original programming for SpikeTV, ESPN, Fox, and Bio. The ESPN broadcast of the Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest has generated a higher rating than any Major League Baseball telecast on July 4 in the United States.

Competitive eating is not a sport.  That's ludicrous.

But turns out it's not just a passion thing, there is money involved.  Today, at Nathan’s, each winner of the women’s and men’s events is going to walk away with $10,000.  There’s also a $20,000 purse for each division.

Cash, TV fame and heartburn - the glory of gluttony.

I still don't get it.

Happy fourth of July.