Forget about the World Cup or World Series or even the Super Bowl. The No. 1 competitive sport is the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating contest at Coney Island, New York. The legendary Joey Chestnut won for the eighth straight time, downing 61 in the allotted 10 minutes. While that’s not his personal best of 69, it’s still pretty impressive, if one would call speed gorging impressive. By the way, feed racing has its own Title IX. Miki Sudo inhaled 34, finishing ahead of three-time chomp champ Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas. Call that an upset. Call the whole thing an upset.
This competition has been a July Fourth tradition for 98 years, and it’s time we give it the attention it deserves. After all, gross overconsumption by a few is a growing American tradition. But remember the management motto: “If it ain’t broke, break it.” The first thing we need to do is change the venue. I know, I know, there are the traditionalists who will insist that Coney Island provides the perfect tacky backdrop. But if you want tacky, then it’s time to move the entire spectacle to Washington.
Why not the White House South Lawn? With just a few tweaks, it certainly would be appropriate. To please the first lady, obviously the hot dogs would have to go. But that’s not a big deal. Carrots will make a wonderful replacement. And there could be a kiddie competition, with — you guessed it — baby carrots. That is, unless the food conglomerates have their way and the youngsters get to cram in morsels laden with salt, sugar, fat and other addictive ingredients. True to its normal operating procedures, the Obama administration is keeping details secret and will indict any leakers. The event will be shot only by White House cameras.
Nathan’s is probably going to bail, since it’s not as unhealthy as they’d like, and that would eliminate many of the usual corporate sponsors, like McDonald’s, Coke and Pepsi. And I’m guessing that Hobby Lobby won’t be called upon to help make the decorations. Even if they were ordered to participate, the Supreme Court said they wouldn’t have to.
Speaking of soft drinks, Michael Bloomberg can emcee, now that he’s out of work. I would have recommended John Boehner, but he might get lost in the carrots.
This is not as far-out as you might think. Down the street, in the Capitol, they’ve been engaged for years in a food fight. And let’s not limit this to government. Wouldn’t this be a much more civilized way to conduct presidential debates? No longer could the participants be forced to eat their words. In fact, the advantage here is that no one could understand what they were saying. Obviously Chris Christie would be at a disadvantage, now that he’s lost 85 pounds, at last report from his doctor. Good for him, but his lap-band surgery simply doesn’t allow him to ingest very much. He’s just not the heavy hitter he was, but he can still vent his frustration by having his aides cause a huge traffic jam outside.
This could become a regular event during television news ratings periods. Instead of the usual happy talk about how they’re “on your side,” the anchors could simply infotain by stuffing Twinkies in their mouths. On cable news they could only use one side of their mouth, depending on whether it was MSNBC or Fox. At CNN, the food of choice would have to be whatever they were serving on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 when it disappeared.
So get ready, America. Forget Tim Howard. We’re going to have some new heroes to worship. Chestnut, Sudo and the Black Widow are just the beginning. This could be bigger than roller derby, particularly if the competition moves to D.C. It would be something else from Washington that makes us sick.
Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years with CNN.