Every Fourth of July, Nathan’s Famous, the frankfurter chain, hosts a hot-dog eating contest in Coney Island, N.Y. Tragically, this year’s contest was marred. Six-time champion Takeru Kobayashi was hauled away by police after storming the stage. He had been barred from the contest for refusing to sign a contract with Major League Eating.
Contracts? Major League Eating? Is this some kind of joke?
Nope. It’s worse. It’s a joke that has turned serious.
In the old days, eating contests were just for fun. A bunch of ordinary folks would line up at a county fair to see who could swallow the most pie. Pretty soon, they’d run out of pie, time, or belly space. Things are different now. Competitive eating has become an industry with stars, managers, corporate sponsors, international marketing, and a pro league. It’s generating more money, more exposure, and more physical abuse. Before we reach for another helping of this perversity, it’s time to ask whether we’ve had enough.