Eating contests are pretty fun. I remember doing quite well in a raw oyster eating competition as a kid. But competitive eating as a sport turns a fun pastime into something that I’m pretty sure isn’t consistent with human flourishing. Nonetheless, you are free to choose your own stomach ache! And let’s face it, it isn’t exactly a public health problem when a relatively small number of folks race to consume mass quantities of some delicious delight like a hot dog or macaroni and cheese. Nature has a way of reminding those of us with the stomachs of mortals that this is a bad idea.
But nanny journalists – no doubt cheered on by the Michelle Obama-types* – can’t help turn a simple report on the 97th Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest into a chance to lecture us on the dangers of eating. Here from the ESPN report of Joey Chestnut’s magnificent 6th straight victory:
For some, it’s a painful reminder of excess — especially as the U.S. battles a growing obesity problem. The American Medical Association opposes competitive eating, saying it’s harmful to the human body. But the competitive eaters are quite trim. Chestnut is more than 6 feet tall and a muscly 210 pounds, and Thomas, who is 5-foot-5, weighed in at barely 100 pounds.
Hot dogs, though, aren’t the healthiest of choices. In addition to beef, they include salt and various food additives. Chestnut’s total dog count was equal to more than 20,000 calories. This year, the animal rights group Mercy For Animals staged a protest against eating meat, with signs that read “Choose Vegetarian.”
It isn’t that I’m against social pressure or the use of disapprobation. I’m no Mill who saw coercion in such things. But can’t a simple story on who won the contest be just that rather than something politicized? ESPN can’t help itself from doing this kind of stuff – and without any market demand at all I’d guess. I would love to see a serious competitor in the national sports news business emerge.
*Apologies to Sven for criticizing someone with such a nice family who probably stays up late at night thinking of ways to improve my life (as she sees it) regardless of whether her approach infringes on my liberty.