I’m not quite ashamed to say I watched the hot-dog eating contest on ESPN Wednesday. I’m especially grateful that the runner-up, Takeru Kobayashi, covered his mouth during his “reversal” in the final seconds, and spared a national audience that. Although he did take his final bow with vomit or something like it down the front of his shirt, and I notice he and the winner didn’t shake hands.
Competitive eating is all the rage these days among reporters looking for the last unexplored, non-sexual subculture safe for a family newspaper. I guess it rings all those obesity-epidemic bells with editors, but speaking as one who tuned in during the introduction of contestants, I can tell you more were skinny or average-size than fat. Both Joey Chestnut, the winner, and Kobayashi, the six-time defending champion, are guys I could easily knock down in a sumo bout. The trick to winning seems to be in technique, not capacity — how wide you can open your jaw, how much you can relax your throat muscles, how much you can suppress your gag reflex. Also, how much you like wet hot dogs; arrayed before each contestant was a battery of cups, presumably filled with water. Each dipped their dogs before stuffing it into the piehole, I suppose partly for lubrication and partly to collapse the bun. There are few things I enjoy in summer more than a good hot dog, but this was just vile. (And not because one of the sponsors was Heinz. KETCHUP DOES NOT BELONG ON HOT DOGS. There will be no further discussion.)
You’d think a place like Michigan would be the cradle of competitive-eating stars, but I guess not. One of my favorite Jim Harrison lines: “Only in the Midwest is overeating seen as heroic.”
I fished almonds out of a bag of granola while Alan peeped through his fingers. I kept expecting something like the 2006 Preakness. But Kobayashi thoughtfully covered his mouth.
The older I get, the less I overeat, which is sometimes hard to reconcile with my size, but believe me, it’s true. And it’s not because I’m getting the middle-aged heartburn thing, either; I still can eat pretty much anything I want without paying a price in anything but thigh circumference. Maybe it has to do with the gradual ebbing of the hormonal tide. I’ve yet to meet a man who can fully understand what it’s like to be female and in the grip of a PMS-induced potato-chip destruction mission. (I always say, “You know how your dick makes you do stupid things? It’s like that.”) I hope it has to do with refinement, with being happy with a little quality rather than a lot of crap, but that might not be it, either. In the long run, it might just be the beginning of the downhill slide toward the Earlybird Special. All the things our bodies do to embarrass us — sweat, exude, crave — diminish with age, or are transmogrified into one area (hair sprouting in places it doesn’t belong). Say what you will about inappropriate sexual urges, but at least it’s proof you’re alive.
You ever notice how many contemporary libido scolds get that way in their 40s? Laura Schlessinger plowed a wide swath in her well-photographed youth, then decided it was her mission in life to condemn all younger women who did the same. The blood cools, and the memories of what it was like to be 25 — they fly right out the window.
Speaking of hormones, I was talking to someone at a party last week, another ex-newsie, who asked if I ever missed it. I said the only thing I missed was the newsroom, and we both agreed there was no better place to work than a bullpen city room, back before fear and flop sweat took over the business. He told a funny story about his northern California paper, which had not one but two transsexuals-in-transition working there, and the uproar it caused — mostly over the which-bathroom-do-you-use issue. He said one night he had to phone in a story, late, and the dictation was taken by Michelle, formerly Mike. It all went well until he signed off with “thank you, sir” and unleashed a torrent of estrogen-induced recrimination about respect and honoring choices and blah blah blah. And all my friend wanted to do was point out that the hormones change everything but the voice, and he just forgot.
Well, we seem to have gone to stream-of-consciousness today, haven’t we? Let’s blog it up a little:
A Chicago Tribune critic/blogger asks his colleagues, “If a movie ever made you walk out, what was it?” I don’t know if I ever have — once I’ve paid the money, I’ll sit through just about anything — but I do have a few aborted-rental movies, including “Zoolander” and “Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas.”
This one’s for the Detroiters — ever wonder what the original Pistons logo looked like? Mitch Harper dug up one from the days of the Zollner Pistons, the current club’s predecessor. That guy looks like he’s quick on his Chuck Taylors, eh? Hilarious.
One of the advantages of being French is that natural slimness, born of cigarettes, genetics and aerobic rudeness. The new French president prefers to maintain it with exercise, which leads his constituents to rise as one and shout, “Quel fromage!”
Back to work. Have a great weekend.