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Noah Syndergaard loves hot sauce more than most people love their families

He also doesn’t think a hot dog is a sandwich.

MANHATTAN — The Norwood Club is not a restaurant, and it is also not a bar. There is a bar, and there is a restaurant. But the brownstone in Greenwich Village is a private club; if you’re going to dine there, you have to belong.

I do not belong. I’m here because I’ve been invited to a brunch celebrating the partnership between Noah Syndergaard, the Mets’ star pitcher currently nursing a shoulder injury, and Cholula, the hot sauce that is, as far as I can tell, in fine health.

PR events like this come through a sportswriter’s inbox fairly frequently. I usually ignore them. But this one caught my eye. Why, I want to know, has Syndergaard agreed to be the face of a hot sauce brand?

The brunch started at 10:30. I’m late because I was reading tweets about the Comey hearing, which is happening at the same time and is not nearly as important. By the time I get off the elevator, we’re halfway through a marketing video projected onto the wall of a darkened room. The space is too small for the number of people inside, which seems necessary for fostering an intimate vibe.

Syndergaard himself sits on a stool underneath a huge mural that says THE ORDER OF CHOLULA, and a triangle that looks like the Illuminati symbol. His long blonde hair is pulled into an impressively neat man bun, his light blue button-down is immaculately pressed, and the suede of his desert boots is spotless. His expression is that of an eighth-grader bored in the back of a math class.

A buffet of breakfast burritos, chicken and waffles, and bowls of an egg, meat, and avocado mixture sit on a side table. They’re flanked by bottles of — you guessed it — Cholula.

This is ... the fanciest hot sauce day party in the history of the world.

I can’t stop laughing at the marketing video, because a) it features some guy who got a tattoo of a goddamn Cholula bottle, and b) the background music is manly man tunes from a truck commercial. No one else in the crowd — which is made up of mostly food bloggers and a few other sportswriters — seems to find any of this funny.

The movie ends, Syndergaard says a few words about how great Cholula is, gets up, and walks by me. He is a million feet tall. He leaves the intimate space and heads out to the balcony, where he sits down on a rough-hewn wooden bench.

A few of us have been granted 10 minutes each to talk Syndergaard. He looks less bored as he shakes my hand and tells me that, no, he didn’t put Cholula in the coffee he’s drinking.

Let’s get this out of the way: The shoulder recovery is going well. Syndergaard has good doctors. He misses playing baseball, he loves his fans, yadda, yadda, yadda.

From now on, we are only going to talk about Serious Hot Sauce Issues, because this is a Serious Hot Sauce brunch. And the first Hot Sauce answer I want is: Why is Noah Syndergaard sponsored by hot sauce?

“Not just any hot sauce,” Syndergaard says. “Cholula.”

“Sorry,” I say. “Why Cholula?”

The answer is simple: Syndergaard just really loves Cholula. He’s from Texas, where he says it’s in every restaurant and always in his family’s kitchen cabinet. He grew up eating it. He still eats it. He eats it on everything.

How brilliant: Wouldn’t you love to be sponsored by something you love? Syndergaard, who adores Cholula, gets as much free Cholula as he wants! The guy has it made in the hot sauce department, and the hot sauce department is clearly a place he enjoys spending time.

The thing Syndergaard puts hot sauce on most frequently is a dish called the Bowl of Doom, which is the weird egg, meat, and avocado mixture being served inside. Syndergaard’s goal this past offseason was to bulk up. To do so, he had to eat four to five meals a day, starting with the Doom Bowl for breakfast. The plan seems to have worked: He gained 17 pounds of pure brawn over the winter.

“Congrats,” I say. “On the muscles.”

“Thank you,” Syndergaard says.

“Do you think you could chug a bottle of hot sauce?” I ask, pointing to the Cholula on the table. “Like, how much could you eat plain?”

“I don’t know about plain,” he says, furrowing his brow. “That’s tough. But I do think that, because I’m the founder of the Order of Cholula, there should be initiation. Which should be to chug a bottle of Cholula.”

“Oh, so now you’re hazing Cholula fans,” I say. “Great, Noah. That’s going to be my headline — Noah Syndergaard is hazing Cholula fans.”

“Go for it,” he says. He shrugs.

I ask him if a hot dog is a sandwich.

“No,” he says.

“OK, thank you,” I say.

“A hot dog is a hot dog,” he says.

“Right,” I say. “Like, it’s absurd that this is even a question. We can agree on that?”

“Yeah,” he says. “I was not expecting that question, though. A hot dog is its own category. It’s like a gyro.”

“Yes!” I say, too loudly, and the PR guy looks up from his phone. I’m excited, thrilled to discover that Syndergaard is on the right side of history. “You wouldn’t go to a barbecue and be like, ‘Hey can I have that sandwich?’ as you pointed at a hot dog.”

“No,” Syndergaard says. “They’d be like, ‘That’s a hot dog.’”

So what’s better: a hot dog or hot sauce?

“A hot dog, I guess, because it’s more sustainable food,” he says. “If you’re talking about surviving.”

Wow. I didn’t expect this to take such an apocalyptic turn. (Then again, Syndergaard does eat a Bowl of Doom for breakfast every day.) But you know the first rule of improv is “yes, and...?” As in, keep the imagination going. Don’t block it by batting down an idea? So I roll with it and ask Syndergaard what the one food he’d bring to a deserted island would be, if he were to find himself stranded.

“Can I plant this food and grow more of it?” he asks. Very good question.

“Sure, yeah,” I say.

“Can I bring, like, a cow and raise it? There’s gotta be all kinds of rules.”

I realize I haven’t thought this question through. Syndergaard is calling my bluff.

“Yeah that’d be good,” I say. “Because you’d have company. But then you’d have to kill the cow to eat it, which would be sad.”

“OK, then can I have two cows to reproduce?” he asks.

“Yeah, you can have two cows,” I say. “So is that what you would bring? Two cows?”

“No, no, no,” Syndergaard says, shaking his head. “Mmm. That’s tough. I can only bring one thing? How am I supposed to bring my Cholula?”

I roll my eyes. This guy and his hot sauce! I tell him that his hot sauce is already there, because in this hypothetical situation, the plane that crashed and deposited him on this island was carrying a full cargo load of Cholula.

“OK, then I’d bring a bunch of DiGiorno pizzas,” he says.

“Are they paying you to say that?” I ask. “Is DiGiorno sponsoring you, too?”

“No, but they might, now.” He smiles. Sly and enterprising, Syndergaard is.

“I could survive off pizzas and Cholula for a while,” he continues. “I’m on a deserted island. I’m not worried about my weight. I’m not worried about my figure.”

I suggest he could throw coconuts to stay in shape. He says, yes, that would work and so would climbing trees.

Speaking of islands, we happen to be on one called New York City, and Syndergaard tells me there’s this restaurant in Tribeca where he orders steak with lobster on top.

“You put lobster on steak?” I ask. “You’re a monster.”

“Yeah, someone call the loony bin,” he says. “There’s a madman on the loose.”

I want to know what Syndergaard’s favorite ballpark food is. He says he likes Shake Shack and asks me if I’ve ever been.

“I have,” I say. “It’s incredible. Those cheese fries? If you’re ever drunk, go get a bunch of melted cheese on fries.”

“Wait, how late does Shake Shack stay open?” Syndergaard asks.

“I don’t know,” I say. “But it doesn't have to be late for a person to be drunk.”

“Are you getting drunk in the day?” he asks. “Are you day drinking? Rosé all day?”

“Oh god,” I say. “This interview is over.”

My friends and I used to play a game: If you could be sponsored by any company, what would it be? I always chose Polar Seltzer. Free bottles of something you love just because you let them put your face on marketing materials? Sign me up. That’s the dream.

And Noah Syndergaard is living it. He hacked the system. He used his fame to get the free stuff he likes. And that stuff isn’t, like, BMWs. It’s Cholula. It costs, what, three bucks at most?

As far as sponsorship deals go, there’s something really pure about a guy who loves hot sauce getting hot sauce to throw him fancy private brunches in fancy private clubs — where people pay him to eat his daily Bowl of Doom. I find it admirable that a bajillionaire athlete is still hustling for cheap condiments: He might even get a frozen pizza sponsorship, assuming the DiGiorno people read this article.

If the only downside is that he occasionally has to sit on a bench answering some weird reporter’s inane questions about hot dogs and deserted islands? Well, there are higher prices to pay.