Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Showdown at the Hot Dog Corral

This weekend, Shannon and I trekked up to Dallas to cheer for Chris (a.k.a. Big Chompy) at the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest. This eating battle was staged in a non-descript suburban parking lot with a big white tent offering protection from the sweltering Texas sun. We crammed in with the crowd of about 200 to gape at the gustatory spectacle. This crowd was dominated by Chompy supporters wearing fetching mustard yellow "Bite for your right to Coney" t-shirts

Chris drew a center-stage spot where he jostled for space with a massive eater known as "The Intimidator." As the athletes tore into the first hot dogs, a cloying wave of hot dog wind washed over the crowd bathing us in frankfurter perfume. I was certainly grateful to be in the crowd and not on stage.

The ten minute contest flew by quickly, and it was impossible to tell how well Chris or the other competitors were doing. From our vantage point, our guy was pushing a solid pace, and it felt like he was in the mix to win it. His cheering section, some 70-strong, punctuated the event with numerous rounds of deafening chants and cheers. As the final seconds ticked off the clock, Chris crammed in one last massive mouthful of food. This technique, known in the competitive eating world as chipmonking can sometimes boost a competitor to victory. Well, it wasn't a pretty sight, and he was chewing for 5 minutes after the contest.

With the trip to Coney Island and validation as professional-caliber eater at stake, I know Chris really wanted to win this competition. I saw the brutal training regimen and heard the stories about sleepless nights and the terrible things that hot dogs can do to one's physiology. In the final tally, he fell just a handful of HDB's short of winning the competition, finishing 4th place out of 15 competitors with 15 HDB's eaten in 10 minutes.

Some travelling "pro" from California won the spot in the Coney Island contest, but there are much more valuable things in life. Chris drew a massive crowd of friends and family, people who support him and have his back. Even the Dallas Morning News took note in their coverage, declaring Chris the crowd favorite. That's pretty cool in my book.

Congratulations to Big Chompy for a great rookie effort, and thank you for saving us thousands of dollars in New York travel expenses.

Link to Dallas Morning News article:

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