"It is possible to die from eating. But I think to be professional means you don't die." (Takeru Kobayashi)

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Major League Eating needs a Triple Crown

That's right, I'm talking about three major events -- acknowledged by eaters and fans alike as "the big ones" -- that represent the crowning jewels of the competitive eating calendar. Win all three titles and it doesn't matter what you do the rest of the year, because you -- as the kids like to say -- are the shizznit.

Pretty much every other individual sport has a Triple Crown (or, in the case of four events, a Grand Slam). Golf has the U.S. Open, Player's Championship, British Open and Masters. Tennis also has a Grand Slam. Horse racing has a Triple Crown. Hell, even boxing labels its best fighters as "undisputed champions" when they're able to hold (either by fix or legitimate win) the WBC, WBA and IBF belt titles simultaneously. How cool would it be if competitive eating did something similar?

Imagine the frenzy surrounding that third and final event of the year. Kobayashi has already won the first two contests (let's just admit right now that the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Contest is one of the events) and the only thing standing between him and the Major League Eating Triple Crown is a field of hungry and focused gurgitators hell-bent on keeping him from reaching his goal.

But if the Nathan's contest is one of Triple Crown jewels, what are the other two?

A series of qualifying contests always helps legitimize an event. It ensures that only the best of the best face off in the final competition and also helps build up a little hype prior to the big day. That said, it seems like the Krystal Square Off would make a good second jewel in the MLE Triple Crown. It also helps that it's not too close to the Nathan's hot dog contest (Krystals in October, Nathans in July). This gives eaters a little time to refocus. It also gives fans plenty of time to critique the last contest and buzz about the next.

We might also agree that the three events should be somewhat different in the type of food they're based on. It should take a well-rounded eater to win all three titles. They must have talent and skills across a wide range of foods -- from bready, meaty snacks to soft and sweet desserts.

Granted, that requirement doesn't bode well for the Krystal Square Off as a second Triple Crown event. I mean, let's face it, the only real difference between Krystal hamburgers and Nathan's hot dogs are the shape and type of meat (burgers = beef, hot dogs = delicious "meat" and "spices"). But since Krystal has the all-important qualifying round, built-in media hype and a solid sponsor, we'll keep it on our list.

So what's the final event? (And no one really said we have to limit it to three events, but we'll stick with three for now.)

Johnsonville Brats?
PROS: Big $$ means it brings out the world's finest and gets ESPN coverage.
CONS: It's basically a fatter, juicier hot dog.

PROS: Makes use of many different foods. It's also the freakin' U.S Open of Competitive Eating.
CONS: Lack of sponsorship forced its cancellation in '06. Held just one week after the Nathan's contest (July 13).

3 Brothers Pizza?
PROS: The brothers themselves are thinking about doing a 15-round qualifier for next year's contest.
CONS: Yet another doughy food. Lacks reputation as a "big event."

Wing Bowl?
PROS: Good calendar position (early February). And, with 15,000+ spectators, it's probably the most well-attended eating event in the world (Nathan's overhyped estimations aside).
CONS: It's not an IFOCE event and the hoops would-be eaters have to jump through to compete tend to rule out a "best of the best" field of competitors.

Golden Palace Grilled Cheese Finals?
PROS: Also good calendar position (early February). And it uses qualifying rounds.
CONS: Another doughy, sandwich-like food, but the grilled-ness of it somehow makes it different.

Looks like the front-runners are the Grilled Cheese Finals and the U.S. Open (if it returns in '07 and can be moved to a late winter or early spring date). Anyone know a good sponsor with close to $100,000 to spare?


Blogger steakbellie said...

What makes Nathans and Krystals Crown Jewel Worthy is that they can offer an identical food year after year, at any event nation wide. This consistant substrate makes it possible to compare one eater in Washington to one in Florida in a fairly 'Apples to Apples' way despite competing different times and places.

Wings, burritos, tamales & pizza can vary from plate to plate or from event to event.

Johnsonville Brats has the glamorous finals but not the nationwide qualifing scheme. I agree that they are very similar to Nathans though.

Wing Bowl is far to subjective. But wings would be an excellent 3rd as they require techinal eating. There would need to be serious consideration by the IFOCE to keeping wing size consistant.

Grilled Cheese could be it, but I'd much rather prefer a slightly different food.

12:25 PM

Blogger steakbellie said...

your blog has benn screwy the last couple of days...you should republish the whole thing out of the Control Panel to clear up any errors

2:27 PM

Blogger Mega Munch said...

Thanks for the heads up. Republishmentation is complete.

I hear ya about a different food being the third jewel. I'd like to see a dessert entree in the Triple Crown. Since desserts are usually measured in pounds, you eliminate some of the problem of comparing apples to apples (i.e. a slice of pizza in '05 compared to a slice in '06).

Ice cream would be a great one. It's a good old fashioned American food. Fun to watch and fun to eat.

6:25 PM

Blogger steakbellie said...

There might have to be 4 events to the majors, because I agree with you about a desert. You know first hand that Shoo-Fly and Pizza sit in the stomach VERY differently. Sugar can be tough.

Ice Cream is a great candidate because they add the element of COLD. Getting a sponsor like Ben & Jerry's would be ideal because you could garuntee a consistant product. Can you imagine diving into a gallon of New York Super Fudge Chunk???? Oh My....

I still think there needs to be a technical meat, like chicken or ribs...and it would HAVE to be by weight for fairness.

GREAT topic!

9:23 AM

Blogger Dan said...

Great topic and very thought provoking. I must say I'm shocked to learn that Wing Bowl isn't an IFOCE-endorsed event. To me that's the natural fourth event given its popularity and fame but I can understand the issues with the subjective nature of the judging.

5:40 PM


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