Say what you like about New York City, there’s always something going on. At lunchtime today I walked into Grand Central Station, which is only a hundred yards or so from my office, just as some of the world’s top “competitive eaters” were about to begin a buffalo-wing smackdown. My sense of journalistic duty awakened, I forced myself to watch, with the same mix of horror and fascination that grips us as we pass a gruesome pileup on the highway.
I’ve never paid any attention to competitive eating — in fact, I can hardly imagine anything less dignified, with the possible exception of competitive defecation — so I certainly wasn’t familiar with its big names. Apparently two of them were on hand, however, namely Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas, and Joey “Jaws” Chestnut. Ms. Thomas, at a mere 105 pounds, is a mere slip of a woman, but she is apparently one of the world’s foremost gurgitators, having been at the top of the US field for several years. By some presumptive anatomical anomaly she is easily able to get down more feed at a sitting than men over twice her size — a talent that I should have thought most ladies would keep to themselves, but after all, this is America.
The contest itself, hosted by a garrulous popinjay in a straw boater, was a tawdry and revolting spectacle: human beings reducing themselves to the level of barnyard animals for the amusement of the mob. When it was over, twelve minutes later, the tiny Sonya, beslimed from chin to eyeballs with glutinous scarlet goo, had devoured over six pounds of wings. But it wasn’t good enough; she was outdone by the trencherman who has emerged in recent years as her nemesis: the gangling macrophage Chestnut, whose intake exceeded seven pounds. Yes, that’s seven pounds of buffalo wings in twelve minutes. His parents must be so proud.
You can watch the event here. If you have the stomach for it.