I went to the CrifDog Classic in Bushwick, Brooklyn to "compete" in a hot dog eating contest. This event brings together the invisible strands of American culture quite like nothing else: there's urban blight, hipsters, beer in cans, vomiting, the complete abuse of the concept of personal liberty, sponsorships, and a man from another country winning the whole thing.
Warning: there's vomiting, and graphic footage of your correspondent eating a hot dog wrapped in bacon and topped with avocado and sour cream.
A few behind the scenes notes:
-- Kobayashi is tiny, and the distension of his alimentary canal after eating 68 hot dogs may have been one of the strangest things I have ever seen. Before eating he has the waist of a diver; afterwards, the weight of 68.5 hot dogs leaves him swollen, bulging, and not unlike a snake that's swallowed a medicine ball. Please notice that in the middle of the competition I had to stop and just watch what the hell he was doing to himself. I once watched a pit bull devour an entire birthday cake pulled off a counter. This was far more violent, and far stranger by leagues.
-- The 105-pound woman beat my 10 dog total by 21 hot dogs. She also recently ate 11 pounds of cupcakes in eight minutes.
-- I really tried to eat faster, but a funny thing happens when you shove an entire hot dog into your mouth at once: your body tries to expel it as fast as possible. I really wanted to start vomiting after the third hot dog. After the fifth, I put the soggy bun into my mouth and nearly reversed my fortunes all over the table. I was trying to conceive the worst possible thing someone could give me at that moment, and the answer was "shot of tequila." If you hate someone, and he or she a competitive eater, fill his or her water cup with Cuervo, and then watch revenge illustrated as revenge has never been illustrated before. That person might literally explode rather than endure what would follow. I would not blame him or her one bit for it.
-- The gag reflex is one issue. The other is the hot dog itself. They're all lukewarm to cold due to the logistics of cooking several hundred hot dogs at once. By the time you get them, they're basically morbid bologna torpedoes bound for an intestinal purgatory, less food and more a kind of non-food substance. I had a hot one about an hour before the competition to put something in my stomach, and it was tasty. The first one I ate on stage tasted like dog jerky, and it just went downhill from there.
-- I am not sold on the notion that this is a sport, but it's certainly something straddling the spheres of "competition," "spectacle," "self-abuse," and "pornography."
-- The guy in the video on the far left, the blond man in the shades? He's not supposed to be there. He's very drunk, and came up to me prior to the competition and said, "Hey, look what I got?" He held in his hand an "EATER" badge, given to him by the gate workers who had run out of normal badges. I joked that he could probably walk up on stage. He giggled. I giggled.
Then, in the lineup, I heard giggling behind me, and there he was. He walked up on stage, took a spot, and got 10 hot dogs down just like I did. I really want to see someone do this with an Olympic track event, preferably wearing a lot of head and arm bands, Umbro shorts, and some gigantic 1990s Nike Airs high-tops.