Americans, Baseball, Basketball, botulism, competitive eating, conspicuous consumption, Edward Gibbons, ESPN2, fat ass, fat people, football, gluttony, hockey, hot dogs, Ichiro, Joey Chestnut, Magic: The Gathering, Major League Eating, Matholympics, Nathan's, Spelling Bee, starving children, Steve Irwin, Takeru Kobayashi, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, The Tsunami, United States of America, waddling grotesquery, what the fuck is wrong with you people?
Those who derive a grim joy in heralding the West’s cultural decline must surely take delight in the sudden and troubling popularity of competitive eating. For many years a quaint–if bizarre–swatch of Americana primarily relegated to county fairs, competitive eating has recently risen to a degree that many Americans are confusing it with an actual sport, and its wretched, talentless participants with athletes. Worse still, statistics indicate an increase among young people who believe, erroneously, that the ability to effortlessly slide a six-inch piece of meat down one’s throat is a skill with applications outside prison walls.
In the halcyon days of yesteryear, Americans were a happier, healthier people. They lived lives which modern Americans would consider catastrophically dull, lacking the Internet, cell phones, flat screen 3D Televisions and indoor plumbing to which 21st Century Man has become inseparable. They had neither the plethora of food choices available now, nor the glut of processed, modified or otherwise bastardized food-based products which will be coming out of American microwaves this evening.
They were a simpler, tougher breed, qualities reflected in the sports they played. People who lived where it was cold and who spoke with funny accents played hockey. Arrogant blueblood cocksuckers were sure to play lacrosse, and soccer found a foothold in the exotic immigrant enclaves on the East Coast. Fellows who liked to kick shit often opted for bull riding. For everybody else there was baseball, football and basketball.
Now, several converging trends have made it possible for a new breed of sporting event to come shuffling to the fore, one that eschews the outdated emphasis on athleticism, sportsmanship and dignity, instead concentrating solely on spectacle.
One important factor in opening the door for these exciting new athletic events is the increasingly sedentary nature of Americans. When waddling down the base paths becomes too difficult or a lay-up must be interrupted by a short break for breath, it may become difficult to identify with “true” athletes, who with nothing more than a little luck, God-given talent and years upon years of practice, have healthy bodies which the average American can never hope to enjoy.
The most insidious factor in the rise of non-sport is surely Cable TV. Before the advent of ESPN2, who exactly was aware of “sports” like the Spelling Bee, Magic: The Gathering or the Matholympics?
As insipid as those activities are, they pale beside the most odious and vulgar of the non-sports: competitive eating, a vile glorification of excess, of food not for nourishment, but for spectacle.
What must the rest of the world, much of it malnourished, think of America’s sleight-of-hand in rendering a crapulent circus into athletic achievement? Americans might be better served not by asking why so many foreign nationals are crossing their borders, but rather, why those same foreign nationals haven’t killed them in their sleep?
Perhaps the most tangible impact of this societal lymphoma is Major League Eating. While it may seem bizarre, or perhaps even horrifying to hear the words Major and League attached to Eating, representatives of MLE were quick to point out that, prior to MLE, there had been no sanctioning body regulating competitive eating, an absence which they claim could have profoundly affected not only the sport’s traditions, but also its dignity.
Brain Syndicate said:
Makes you wonder if ESPN and ESPN 2 ran out of sports to cover, don’t they have LeBron VS Cleveland, or the many women of Tiger Woods, or Favre deciding or not deciding to play another year or not. Hunting is the sports I don’t understand. It’s the only sport where your opponent doesn’t know it’s playing the game. I think Bowling shouldn’t be a sport either. Any sport where a fat man can pound a few beers and still where those god awful shoes, like they came from Dick Clark’s 50’s bandstand and toss a strike should not be a sport. And what about NASCAR. So you’re telling me that turning left for 2-3 hours is a sport.
NASCAR is a motorized sport. Although Smaktakula isn’t a fan, it’s still head and shoulders above Magic: The Gathering as an athletic event. And it keeps Southern People off the streets on hot afternoons, when they can do the most damage.
Yo, I saw Chestnut on Man v Food when they were in San Jose. Homeboy chowed some super burrito in like 3 mins. He must have anaconda in his genes, the way he mowed that thing down. Even the host was staring in disbelief.
Without a doubt, atheletes like Chestnut and Kobayashi have an amazing talent. It’s great that we live in an age where we can see these guys on TV, and, unlike previous generations, don’t have to wait until the carnival comes to town to see them.
Some Guy said:
Is it hypocritical to admit that, even though I believe competitive eating is an embarrassment to American society, I would, without hesitation, switch on the tube to watch a televised drinking contest?
Now that we’ve made a competition out of eating—one of our basic bodily functions—it’s only a matter of time before competitive crapping starts generating headlines. And I’m willing to guarantee that it’ll get more coverage on ESPN than hockey does.
Actually, I understand a competitive crapping league is forming, and will begin play in spring of 2011. ALL of their games will be Bowl Games.
Some Guy said:
I’m going to be kicking myself for days for not thinking of the “Bowl Games” joke thing first. Well played.
The Kobayashi controversy – being banned from the Coney Island Nathan’s Hot Dog competition (MLE’s Superbowl) only to show up and be roughly carted away by police – added a professional wrestling type drama to competitive eating. Which is important, because in my opinion, the sport was simply too high-brow before adding that element.
A very astute observation; we agree completely. It was that element–and that alone–which transformed the noble pursuit of competitive eating into the degraded sewer-romp it has become.