Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Competitive Eating: Is it a Sport?

Annually peaking in popularity just a few short weeks ago, competitive eating has been in the public's eye the last several years since Kobyashi brought the gun show to Coney Island. Prior to him, the record was in the teens, it wasn't televised on ESPN and not many people outside of the borough knew it happened. Kobyashia Phelps'd it before Phelps and changed the game.

Like Tiger did with golf, you started seeing guys in better shape competing. Additionally, there were more entrants, a real audience and other records were discussed outside of hot dogs and buns (HDBs). The sponsorship dollars rose and personalities like Crazy Legs Conti, Eater X and Joey Jaws started to crop up as K-List celebs.

There is a decent amount of money being tossed around and Joey Jaws made more last year than about two-thirds of the MLS. Sponsorship, viewers, sustained exhilaration and high effort, vigorous training schedules and rivalries are all things that point me in the direction of calling it a sport. Heck, the main sanctioning body is even called Major League Eating. 

However, calling these guys athletes makes me cringe and when the main goal of the competition is being gluttonous, I can't do it. Sure, I'll watch the Hot Dog eating contest, I'll cheer for Joey Jaws keeping the Mustard Yellow Belt stateside, but that's the only time all year I care. Just doesn't have all the elements to call it a sport.

The Verdict: Not a Sport.

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