A Table Of Their Own

I just finished a lot of reading about sport stacking, the past-time where kids put plastic cups into various formations as fast as they can. That’s a recipe for burn out. All I could find online generally broke down into three categories: 1) the sites of the organizations themselves; 2) YouTube videos, which can be surprisingly long for a sport where records can last under three seconds; and 3) every local paper who has ever had a single sport stacker in their city doing a “Wow! Looks at what kids are up to!” profile piece.

My biggest problem: sport stacking is not a sport. It’s a bunch of kids flexing muscle memory. That’s all.

Competitive eating, though? I am willing to grant that sport status. Which is why I was pleased to see this article over on Grantland recently. It was some much needed detox.

At 43 years old, Sonya Thomas, a star in the male-dominated world of competitive eating, seems sure to win Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest. (That’s tomorrow!) The upset that might allow her this victory is that Major League Eating has now created men and women competitions.

Writes Patrick Michels:

Under MLE and the Shea brothers, competitive eating has become a complex parody, a sport that’s also about sports, roping in the crowd by tying popular narratives to real people and using it all to sell everything from Nathan’s hot dogs to Pepto Bismol. Now MLE is adding a new layer to the parody. Almost 40 years after Title IX, 15 years after the WNBA’s founding, the Nathan’s contest is segregating in the name of progress.

The inclusion of women in the sport has come with plenty of sexist assholes crying and moaning about it, as Michels writes, and one of the female competitors for tomorrow even worries about becoming some kind of fetish object. I’ve heard the catcalls female bodybuilders get, so I know that’s not entirely out of the question.

But competitive eating is one of those wonderful competitions that still treasures oddball personalities, where quirky people get to go head-to-head in a thing they enjoy doing. Allowing women the space to do that too and be recognized when they’re awesome at it seems like a good thing to me.

Side note: I would love to hear Matt Dunigan read the line “She calls Wing Bowl 12 back in 2004 her ‘happiest time.'”

Author: James Brotheridge

Contributing Editor with Prairie Dog.