I began my Fourth of July morning like many other Americans. I woke up, put my Lee Greenwood mix on the stereo and red, white and blue underwear on my nether regions, fired a few bottle rockets skyward and then tuned my television to ESPN to watch some weirdos gorge themselves at Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest in New York. And not just a few hot dogs, but more than 60 of the mixed-meat wieners and their accompanying buns in 10 minutes.
Hot dogs, and the grotesque overeating thereof, are quite American, so I'm not going to say that a wiener-eating contest (oh come on, get your head out of the gutter) has no place as a Fourth of July tradition. What I'm more concerned with is that ESPN would recognize competitive eating as a "sport." If wasting food is a sport, then so is throwing diamonds down sewer drains or showering daily with Evian. But on the other hand, what's more American than throwing away things people in other parts of the world would die for?
After all, Paul Revere didn't die face down in the mud at Gettysburg so Americans could not eat 60 hot dogs in 10 minutes. This is so American, in fact, that the citizens of other countries are emulating our wastefulness, namely Takeru Kobayashi, the diminutive Japanese eater who won the contest from 2001 to 2007 before he got into a contract dispute with the "sport's" governing body. That's correct, there is something called Major League Eating that serves as the organizational structure for "athletes" who want to eat 2.76 pounds of bologna in six minutes like Don Lerman, or 65 hard-boiled eggs in six minutes and 45 seconds like Sonya Thomas. You've probably never heard of those individuals, but if you have, you really like to watch people eat.
Major League Eating is the same group that decided five-year reigning champion Joey Chestnut's 62 hot dogs made him the greatest wiener eater ever, despite the fact that on a nearby roof-top bar Kobayashi was busy cramming 69 franks down his gullet, thus unofficially breaking the world record that Chestnut set last year. Kobayashi was effectively saying, "You Americans think you're alone in your excess? We waste tons of shit in Japan, too." His desire to be the world's greatest eater of tubular meat sticks was reason enough for him to go rogue, his ego substantial enough to think that people give a damn about two different hot dog eating contests.
But wait. Massive egos? Nicknames (one of these wiener chompers calls himself Eater X and wears face paint)? Corporate backing? Contract disputes? Holy crap, this just might be a sport. Soon, kids won't be inspired by Sunday Night Baseball to spend hours in the batting cages in the hopes of someday becoming the next Albert Pujols. Rather, they'll be consuming the contents of their parents' fridge, dreaming of a future as the next Joey Chestnut while laying in a pool of vomit on the kitchen floor, two hours into a caloric coma.
Damn, I love this country.