So for some reason, I got the stupid idea the other day that it would be fun if I enter a hotdog eating contest. It was the worst idea ever.
I was driving home on Sunday night and I heard on the radio that Mothers a popular sports bar near downtown was hosting the event and it was being presented by local station, 98Rock, and the grand prize was a 4 day trip to Las Vegas and that was pretty much it for me. I heard the words “Vegas”, and “Free”, and “Bar” and I thought, “Well, I guess my plans for tomorrow night are set”.
I figured I’m greedy as hell and I would love to go to Vegas for free, how hard could it possibly be? At the very least it would be a unique life experience and an interesting story to tell.
I went to bed and decided that my “Strategy” would be to not eat all day Monday, which would make me so hungry that I would easily be able to eat as much as humanly possible. That was mistake number 1.
Monday afternoon I called up Pinky Ring, who, even though you can't tell by looking at him, has a deceptively huge appetite, and we came up with the idea that we’d compete together and whichever one of us won would sell the prize to the other. It would be a win-win situation.
Around 5:30pm on Monday we get down to Mothers and it occurs to me that through all the excitement of winning a trip to Vegas (which I was assuming was a sure thing), I completely forgot that it was opening day for the Baltimore Orioles.
This huge bar (which I would describe as, lets say “rambunctious”) was choked with people (Lets call them “Rabid and delusional Orioles fans who hate the Yankees as if there’s a legitimate competitive rivalry between the two teams”) who were all drinking for pretty much most of the afternoon and screaming “Fuck the Yankees”.
We found a corner of this space to sit and chill and people watch. There were a few hot chicks there, a few slobs, a couple of meat heads, some other relatively hotter chicks who were peddling Coors Light paraphernalia like bottle cozies and other chotchkies, some generally average bar folk and in the corner there was a set up for the 98Rock DJ’s and personalities to broadcast live and sign people up for the competition.
Pinky Ring was on his BlackBerry, Twittering or some shit, and I just zoned out trying not to ruin my appetite with the free Coors Light I was handed and dodging derogatory Yankee comments that were periodically tossed at me and my Yankee baseball hat.
Finally, after the crowed settle down from the frenzy they were in from watching the Orioles beat the brakes off of the Yankees, it was time to go. I began to realize that my "I won't eat all day" strategy was completely stupid, but it was too late. It was time to start. We sat down at a table in front of an obnoxious crowd of gawkers next to 4 massive dudes who looked like they usually eat a stack of franks on any given day, and the rules were explained to us: “Eat as many as you can in a minute”. That was it. The next thing I know, they were counting down to start and when they said “Go!”, I went in.
The first dog was fine because I was actually hungry. The 2nd and 3rd made me gag. I looked to my left and Pinky Ring was literally eating with his pinky out like he was at a dinner party, and it looked like I was in the lead.
Time was up now. The joker to my right was clearly more interested in making people laugh than actually competing (he had more food on the floor in front of him than he had in his mouth), the other two guys didn’t eat as many I did at all but the guy at the end of the table clearly ate way more than me so I figured I was done.
The crowd was whooping and cheering, I was ready to concede defeat to this behemoth but suddenly the crowd starts chanting in unison, “he’s-gonna-puke, he’s-gonna-puke” and sure enough, fat boy barfed his franks everywhere and got disqualified. So I won.
It was crazy exciting! A representative from the radio station ran over to double check the spelling of my last name, I jumped up on my seat and pointed at my Yankee hat and the crowd booed the hell out of me. I started thinking about Vegas and all the free fun I was gonna have and then the rep say’s “don’t stray to far we’re gonna set up for the 2nd round, but you’re in the finals”.
Wait, what? I have to do this again? Apparently there were 30 competitors. The plan was to have 6 rounds with 6 people participating in each round and then have all the "winners" come back and compete in a "finale".
I was 2 seconds away from saying “No Mas” but I gathered myself and went outside to get some fresh air and fight off the urge to vomit.
I also took that time to ask Pinky Ring why he approached the competition the way he did, he said: “My technique was classy baby. I ate at a leisurely pace because when I looked down that table and saw all those red, swollen and otherwise distorted faces I knew I had to raise the bar for competitive eating. Ok actually I wimped out 2 hot dogs into the contest.
The the way these fuckers were mowing them down made me feel a mixture of disgust and admiration but when I heard people taking bets on my performance it made me feel like a slave or something.
And it's not like I'm a big guy, so in light of that, for my last three dogs I requested mustard, fries, and a soady pop but my request fell on deaf ears. The skank standing to my left with the dumpster juice gravy breath yelled "YOU LITTLE PUSSY, I BET MONEY ON YOU! EAT A FUCKING HOT DOG!!!"
That's when I knew it was time to go.”
For me though, it was time to go back in. I had the option to bail but I thought to myself, “well, I’ve gone this far…”, that was yet another mistake.
I wasn’t really paying attention to the other 5 rounds but apparently it was a mess. All of the finalist looked like they were capable of eating more than me (maybe I should've gotten drunk like them), meanwhile I was getting nauseous from just the smell of the Hot Dogs, not to mention the collection of puke that accumulated under the table. They took a moment to mop that up and sat us all down.
I noticed to my left, a massive dude with a really calm and super confident demeanor sitting quietly. I remember asking him how many dogs he ate to win the first round and he said “almost all of them, but if I knew there was going to be more than one round I would’ve only eaten enough to win that round.” I wondered if I had to time to put money on him, but I didn’t.
It was time to rock. Again. I wanted to get up and walk away so bad.
My stomach was cramping, my mouth was watering like full blown up-chuck is right around the corner, and I’m sweating Hot Dog water, but the people in front of me are ranting. They’re talking about bets that are being made, they’re screaming and cheering while the radio guy says, “OK, we’re going live on the air, in 5, 4, 3, 2…”
I tried to get focused but when they said “GO!” I quickly took on my first 2 Dogs. Barely. But both Dogs wanted to get the hell out of me and apparently they wanted to bring the ones that I already ate earlier along with them. I couldn’t puke in front of everyone though. I figured I would just eat slow and steady and make a respectable showing.
With almost half of the time gone, I see the dude to my left is blowing me out of the water and the guy on my right is almost completely done and if you just were to take a glance at my plate you wouldn’t even be sure if I started or not, and I wasn't sure if I was hallucinating or not but the idea that Hot Dogs killed Babe Ruth occured to me so I just stopped eating altogether.
I sat there and saw the guy on my right licking his plate clean and the crowd going wild. They were beginning to call him the winner until someone pointed out that the big, burly, bearded dude I spoke to earlier was not only done, but he was in the middle of eating his 6th extra Hot Dog!
While everyone was distracted I quietly barfed up what was in my mouth and congratulated the winner who I found out was Joe “The Gentleman” Menchetti.
A world record holding competitive eater who is nationally ranked and has competed in Japan. Yeah, a ringer pretty much. It was cool though, he was a good guy (A gentleman I guess) and when I asked him how he felt after the competition he laughed and said, “I’m actually a little bit full”.
That was the extent of it. I'm sure that had I been aware of who he actually was I probably would have given him a thorough interview (or at least an Intense 10 Seonds), but I was reeling from what I was sure was some sort of sodium nitrate poisoning and I had to get the hell out of that bar.
Apparently he has records in Conch Fritter eating having taken on 45 in six minutes, a Sweet Corn title with 22 ears in twelve minutes, and he’s listed as having once eaten 43 glazed doughnuts in 8 minutes among other awards. He doesn’t have a website but you can learn more about him Here.
So that was that. On one hand I’m glad I was able to do it. I’ve watched eating contest on TV and thought to myself, “I could do that”, but clearly I was wrong. Still it’s nice to try the wacky things that interest you whether it’s hang gliding, bungee jumping or pushing yourself to the brink of processed meat overdose.
I’ll probably never eat another hot dog again and I took a dump so gnarly that it was worthy of it’s own Facebook page, but I have a renewed optimism about the rest of my life.
I still consider that contest a horrible (albeit funny) idea, but that’s the beauty of it, it was easily the most poorly conceived idea that I've ever had and one of the stupidest things I’ve ever taken part in, but by that rationale, the rest of my life should be smooth sailing.