Let Them Eat the Entire Cake

April 15, 2020

Professional gluttony and the virus crisis.

Like everyone in the media, I’ve been getting a lot of emails and press releases relating, or attempting to relate, this or that product, service or event to the coronavirus situation. Many of them are pretty strained. I’ve been wondering how inappropriate they could get, but I think we have a new champion:

Competitive Eating is First Major League Sport Back Amid Crisis

Major League Eating Launches 'BetOnline.ag Quarantine Challenge' to Meet Overwhelming Demand for Sports Content

NEW YORK, April 15, 2020 -- Major League Eating has announced that it will launch the BetOnline Quarantine Challenge, a bracket-style elimination eating tournament sponsored by www.BetOnline.ag, to meet overwhelming demand for sports content from fans. The series, which will feature eight of the world's top eaters facing off via video from their homes, will launch this Friday, April 17, at 7 pm EST, on various platforms...

The release goes on to explain that the eight contestants include a fellow who ate 255 Peeps in five minutes (that’s not a typo, at least on my part – two hundred fifty-five, not 25); another who ate 528 oysters in eight minutes; another consumed 25 pounds of kale salad, and, well, you get the idea. Their freakish, or at least much-abused, digestive systems will participate in four rounds of challenges, streamed live from their dining rooms, kitchens, or maybe bathrooms:

  • Qualifying Round: Sliced Bologna – two pounds
  • Quarterfinals: Milk and Cookies – one family pack of Oreos and a half gallon of milk
  • Semifinals: Baked Beans – 1.125 gallons (or 10 pounds)
  • Finals: Ramen Noodles – 10 individual ramen cups

Let’s leave aside the question of whether watching a bunch of professional gluttons cramming massive amounts of food down their gullets is a sport. If ESPN and other sports channels can call poker a sport, I guess anything goes – especially now, when they have almost nothing to televise. (The Chicago cable sports station is running out of Michael Jordan games to rerun.)

But I’ve always found the concept of “competitive eating” to be borderline offensive, when food insecurity is a chronic problem in this country and globally. It’s even worse now, thanks to the economic disruption caused by the coronavirus, which makes this virtual event virtually obnoxious.

To be fair, it should be noted that the sponsors are donating $10,000 to Feeding America. Still, there’s a certain Marie Antoinette air to this “Quarantine Challenge” – only with Marie eating the cake herself. All of it.