While millions of Americans celebrated Independence Day on Monday the old fashioned way — parades, BBQ, political gatherings, and fireworks to commemorate our country’s 234th birthday, several thousand folks with nothing better to do spent hours in the hot, summer sun on Long Island watching a panel of their fellow citizens who also had nothing better to do, chew and swallow as many hot dogs and soggy buns as they could within 10 minutes. Who says America has lost its competitive advantage in the world? One of our own once again has captured the annual Nathan’s hot dog-eating contest.
Stuffing as much food into one’s mouth as possible and swallowing it without throwing up has now become big business in the U.S. and in other countries as well (Japan being a major competitor). There is even a franchise organization — MLE (Major League Eating) — that “governs” competitive eating contests that draw probably millions of viewers to events around the world each year. There are cash prizes; and there is even a video game, complete with cartoon figures belching and passing gas. Is this a great country or what?
In perhaps the most visible sign that competitive eating has established itself as a bona fide institution, it has now attracted lawsuits and arrests. A former multiple winner of the Nathan’s competition, Takeru Kobayashi, was peeved that a contract dispute with MLE kept him out of this year’s contest, so he engaged in what appears to have been a carefully orchestrated ruckus at the conclusion of this year’s contest. He was arrested, but in so doing was afforded perhaps more publicity than the actual contest winner; which was probably his goal in the first place.
Even though Kobayashi is Japanese, he obviously understands that the real “winner” in many competitive events is the person who gets the most publicity. Americans, always eager to spend their time and money on the most nonsensical of activities, are more than happy to oblige him.