Friday, November 23, 2007

That's a lot of turkey

You thought you ate a lot yesterday? Pat Bertoletti ate 6.91 lbs. of turkey in 8 minutes at yesterday's Turkey Bowl in Las Vegas (you can watch the video here). It is a truly disgusting spectacle, especially the cranberry sauce eating contest at the beginning, and the commentary is really outstanding as well as the interviews and trash-talking before the turkey eating contest. And there is such great jargon that goes along with the whole thing -- my favorite terms are the "reversal" and "Elvis has left the building" (both refer to the same phenomenon). Pat Bertoletti is regarded as the next big thing in the world of competitive eating, so it is kind of a big deal that he won this event (as well as a recent chicken wing eating contest), and some say this signals the end of the era of Takeru Kobayashi's dominance in the "sport".

Some who are not fans of MLE (Major League Eating), such as the University of Iowa spokesperson quoted in this article say that competitive eating is inappropriate because a lot of Americans are fat. I'm not sure there's really a connection (the article quotes a doctor and a food science researcher as saying pretty much the same thing) -- my guess is that people who do see a connection imagine that this is how fat people eat. No forks, just cram it in as fast as you can. But the reality is that, for one thing, some of the best competitive eaters aren't fat themselves at all. The winner of the cranberry sauce eating contest, Juliet Lee, weighs in at 105 lbs. -- she ate 13.23 lbs. of cranberry sauce in 8 minutes. And furthermore, if you watch these events, you can see that competitive eaters are doing something completely different from everyday eating. I know some good eaters (and I can take care of a lot of food myself when called upon to do so), but nobody I know can eat like this. It requires training and discipline. Would I go so far as to call it a sport? Well, I'd say it's more of a sport than other stuff that shows up on ESPN, like poker and spelling bees. But sport or not, and whether you think it is funny or too disgusting to watch, I'd say if you are looking for a symbol of American overconsumption, there are more obvious things to point to than an eating contest. For example, try 20 billion dollars in retail sales on Black Friday.

Happy Holidays...

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