Eating food as a professional sport may seem odd to a lot of people, but many such competitions exist today in the USA. While competitive food eating contests have been around for years, it was only in the late nineties that it got the status of a sport. There is even an organisation named “Major League Eating” headquartered in New York which governs all eating competitions worldwide since its foundation in 1997.
It's not just about the participants. The sport has got its fair share of the audience too, particularly in the US. Some of the most popular contests include Nathan’s 4th of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest, the Zombie Fest at Long Beach, California, The World Slugburger Eating Championship, in Corinth, Mississippi, The World Famous St. Elmo Shrimp Cocktail Eating Championship, Indianapolis, and many more.
And the insane records that people make at these competitions might just blow your mind away. For instance, Joey Chestnut holds the record for eating 70 hotdogs and buns in 10 mins in 2016 at the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest. Matt Stonie holds the record for devouring 43 slug burgers in 10 minutes at The World Slugburger Eating Competition in 2014! Looks insane? Well, it's just one of those things that make America so great! Or does it?
While competitive eating has truly become a huge affair in the United States, many people are particularly skeptical of the same. Many animal rights groups question the morality of such competitions wherein so many animals are consumed in such a short time. Others have the issue of the sport being offensive to people who cannot afford to have enough food in a day. However, the biggest argument against these eating competitions is how they have become a symbol of freedom. The critics say that freedom from unnecessary regulations makes sense in the context of a free democratic and liberal society, it does not mean that we indulge in a gross display of excessive consumption.
The dangers associated with the sport are not limited to morality and freedom. People who participate in the contests have to go through potentially injurious training to stretch their stomach for the sport. These training regimens include consuming more than a gallon of water, eating 200 chicken wings, and the list goes on.
Despite all the dangers associated, the sport continues to grow and thrive. The raging rivalries between participants like Joey Chestnut and Matt Stonie make then Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo of the competitive food eating. With the audience base steadily growing over the years, Competitive Eating has truly become a phenomenon in the United States. Riding on the increasing popularity of this sport, Nathan’s saw a monumental increase in their hot dogs’ sales from 250 million to a billion between 2003 and 2014,when the competition was broadcasted on ESPN .
It all boils down to the numbers of the loyal fan following which a sport or sports-person commands. As long as there are people who enjoy watching food being stuffed in insane amounts as a sport, there will always be people ready to make money by contesting and organizing these festivals. After all, that is the beauty of corporate America- whatever sells, will stick around!