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Is Competitive Eating a Sport?

I was cruising through the channels yesterday around mid-day, trying to find something to watch, or at least have on in the background while I waited for evening’s festivities to start. Spoiler alert: I ended up watching the first four Star Trek films, then fell asleep well before any fireworks went off. But one channel caught my attention. ESPN2 (and later in the day, ESPN Original Recipe). Not because of what sport they were showing, but of the non-sport they were broadcasting. The Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.

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I get that ESPN officially stands for “Entertainment & Sports Programming Network,” so even with a heavy emphasis on sports, there’s still the entertainment angle that lets them get away with it. Turn on ESPN at 3am, and you’ll catch a Magic: The Gathering competition. It’s a role playing card game, basically Dungeons & Dragons for people without imaginations. We’ll still see the World Series of Poker show up every so often. E-Sports, or competitive video games, gets coverage. Though oddly, the WWE gets no ESPN coverage, despite itself being described as “sports entertainment,” and involving considerably more athletic prowess than Magic: The Gathering.

So yes, yesterday’s Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest could fall in the “Entertainment” banner of the Entertainment & Sports Programming Network, but why does it get prime, live coverage during the day, where everything else that is just as non-sports like poker and multi-player Mario Kart relegated to the graveyard hours wasteland normally reserved for infommercials and My Name is Earl reruns? Why did it get a special “Science Of” featurette? For the record: Joey Chestnut won the men’s competition with a record 72 hot dogs eaten, Miki Sodu won the women’s with a personal best 41 hot dogs.

I’d definitely argue that if a hot dog eating contest is going to get such prime placement, especially with highlight coverage in SportsCenter, shouldn’t E-Sports, the WWE, and Magic: The Gathering? Chris Berman talking about tapping your water card so you can attack the lava monster would be hilarious. But let’s just remember that no one in Stand By Me thinks Lard Ass is a highly trained, and highly skilled athlete:

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Don’t get me wrong, I love hot dogs. I love food. But as a sport? Really? No, just let me enjoy my food. Don’t make it a competition.

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