Where Foodies and Sports Nuts Intersect

Competitive eating—it’s the Cinderella story of the sports world. Once relegated to county fairs and the back pages of small-town newspapers, the sport now has a circuit, stars, plenty of up-to-the-minute coverage, as well as its own brand of sports injuries.

But the pure avalanche of press that surrounded this year’s Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest has not been all positive. The backlash has definitely begun. Sportswriters seem especially peeved at the growing stature of competitive eating.

Mike Downey of ChicagoSports.com harshes pretty badly on ESPN’s coverage:

This is not a cute blueberry pie-eating contest from a rural state fair. This is a full-scale competition, nationally televised and as heavily promoted as Wimbledon, which glorifies a freak show. A ‘sport’ that tests the limits of who will become physically ill first, the ‘athletes’ or the audience.

The New York Times (registration required) even gets into the act with an article whose inflammatory title—“The Hideous Masters of Gluttony”—is a lot more vicious than the reasoned piece itself.

Curious about the whole phenomenon? A National Geographic documentary titled Science of Speed Eating premieres Sunday night.