Page 2 readers tell eating stories
As we rapidly approach the Super Bowl of competitive eating -- Nathan's Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island -- we are forced to consider (albeit briefly) the eternal question: Is it a sport?
And we answer: Sure. Why not?
It's competitive: Somebody wins; somebody loses.
There's a prize: the legendary Coveted Mustard Yellow Belt.
Of course, we're also on the sporting side for poker, paintball, beer pong and even cheerleading, but those are other debates and other stories for some other day.
Right now, let's eat.
We asked you for your best "food and sports" stories. While the details were varied, one of two common denominators became apparent.
That's OK. We're not here to judge.
Alas, some of the most interesting stories submitted are not repeated here because they were too long to use and we couldn't figure out a way to shorten them. But we have chosen others -- perhaps as a challenge to readers who have never had a "food and sports" moment of their own.
But before we get started, let's get you in the mood with the help of McSaprr -- (Matt Chertkoff Sings and Plays Rock & Roll) -- a performance artist who will be working many of the leading hot-dog vending establishments in New York and New Jersey on Thursday. He's just released his album "Hot Dog Rock" and has given us a sample video concerning the fall of a legendary competitive eater. It can be seen above.
Are you back? Good. Here is a smorgasbord of your replies:
• "During my senior year in high school, my friends and I participated in what we referred to as the McChallenge (Catchphrase: "10 guys, 10 items, 10.5 dollars, 1 McDream). The rules were simple: We had to eat all 10 items on the McDonald's dollar menu without getting up. The items were a double cheeseburger, four-piece McNuggets, McChicken sandwich, small fries, side salad, a large sweet tea, small drink, two apple pies, three cookies and a yogurt parfait. I rang in at 15 minutes, which was just a minute behind my biology teacher." -- Alex P., Falls Church, Va.
Biology teacher? Shouldn't he have been ineligible for some reason? Feels like cheating.
• "Last summer we went to a Clearwater Threshers game in Clearwater, Fla. You can get a wristband for all the ballpark food you can eat and a ticket to the game for 10 bucks. By far the best deal in sports. By the end of the night I had consumed four hot dogs, three hamburgers, two small bags of peanuts, countless drinks, two ice cream sandwiches and even a Philly cheesesteak sandwich from another stand I had to pay extra for." -- Jim D., Port Richey, Fla.
Bonus points, Jim, for paying extra to get the Philly cheesesteak. All that's missing from your list is a partridge in a pear tree, which you probably would have eaten, too.
• "It was the end of the year sports-awards ceremony at my middle school when I was in eighth grade. On the way to the gym, I was talking with my friends about how many slices of pizza I could eat. My friend then bets me I couldn't eat 20 pieces. I managed the 20-plus four cookies and four Cokes for good measure. My prize from winning the bet a basket of fries at a local burger place (which no longer seemed enticing)." -- Patrick B., Dallas.
Sorry, Patrick, but you are disqualified if you didn't eat the fries.
• Ben M. from Peoria, Il., tells a tale that we are paraphrasing about the day his high school buddy, Mike, tried to break the diner record of 22 pancakes (plus eggs and sausages) to get his photo on the wall next to John Wayne. Ben doesn't say if it was the Duke who actually set the record but the story has a "Stand By Me" feel to it. Oh, Mike failed at 19 3/4 pancakes and had a reversal of fortune but his legend lives on even if his photo does not.
• Aaron M. from Davenport, Iowa, not only provides a story but his own video evidence, too. (And what is it with photos of past greats on the walls? In this case you can see the legendary John Belushi looking down. Here's the tale that goes with the video: "There is an eating challenge in Iowa City. At the Airliner Bar & [Restaurant], they have the Airbus Burger, which is a mammoth two-pound burger, served up with one pound of fries. If you eat the whole thing in 30 minutes or less you get a free T-shirt. Five of us set out on the mission to take down the Airbus. No one finished in the allotted time, but one man did finish just over the time limit."
Dude, a story and a video -- and you all lost? Not good, but the burger looks awesome.
• Galen P. from the Oakland, Calif., area has an idea from the '90s that should have caught on and swept the nation: "My fraternity is hosting a co-ed softball game with our sister sorority. We place a keg behind second base and a huge tub of fresh Jalapeno peppers beside third. The rules were simple; reach second take a beer and drink it before crossing home. Pass third and eat a pepper. I scored six runs before I began striking out on purpose."
• Natalie Y. from Cleveland remembers a contest from summer camp that sounds like it's been tried by countless campers: "A competitive eating contest for grilled cheese sandwiches and bowls of tomato soup. I was the champ -- 12 sandwiches and four bowls of soup. Probably won because we had just completed our mile swim in open water, so I was ready to eat."
• Matt W. from Roslyn, N.Y., tells another tale from the '90s about a wing-eating contest: "My friend, Josh, took a commanding lead. He even felt the need to take my wings from my plate. While he's taking a wing, Robin Ventura hits a game-winning grand slam for the Mets in the playoffs. He jumps in joy and smacks the plate into the air causing it to shatter. A shard cuts the lady sitting behind us and she needed seven stitches to seal the battle scar. We still think Robin Ventura should have paid her medical bills."
• Chris E. from Kansas City had a strange and long story about eating two giant burritos and then running a seven-minute mile so his co-workers would stop calling him Linda. We think you had to be there.
And here is our subjective winner:
• "I was a summer associate at a New York law firm during the days of excess, when legal recruits were wooed with constant cocktail receptions. People started noticing the astonishing number of pigs in blankets I could down at these parties, and decided to pit me (a 5-foot-7, 135-pound girl) against one of the other summers (a big, hungry dude) in a contest. Despite leading the entire time and ultimately eating 71 pigs in 20 minutes, I lost due to some sneaky rule-bending (some might say breaking) by my opponent, who downed 74. But because he went to the bathroom and threw up afterward while I went next door and drank a chocolate milkshake, I've always considered myself the moral victor." -- Bethany P., New York.
Absolutely. You win, Bethany, because a reversal of fortune always means disqualification. After all, every great sport has its unbreakable rules.
Jerry Greene is a retired columnist for the Orlando Sentinel. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.