Sunday, June 25, 2006
Gluttony , the National sport
With sweat pouring down his face, a 42-year-old courier from Moonachie methodically gobbled 22 hot dogs in 12 minutes Friday to win a regional hot-eating competition and a slot at Nathan's Famous Fourth of July eating contest in Coney Island, N.Y.
Pat Philbin, known in the competitive eating circuit as "Pat from Moonachie," beat 12 veterans and newcomers to competitive eating to be crowned the New Jersey Turnpike Regional Hot-Dog Eating Champion at a highway rest area.
"Eating is a natural thing," said Philbin, who stands 6-feet-2 and weighs 310 pounds. "People want to see how fast you can run, how high you can jump, how much you can eat. It's the evolution of sport."
Philbin, ranked 20th by the International Federation of Competitive Eaters, which sanctioned the competition, used a simple technique to win: dunking his hot dogs in water before bites.
While other competitors shoved entire buns into their mouths or swung their heads back to help them swallow, Philbin kept his head down and one fist on the table as he steadily bit into the dogs.
"It's called hungry and focused. Think, 'Don't puke, don't puke!'" Philbin said of his strategy, which came in handy when a competitor next to him got sick during the contest.
To train, Philbin said he drinks a gallon of water in three minutes.
"It expands your stomach and it has a memory of that," said Philbin, who didn't eat for a day before the competition. He planned to eat a light dinner Friday.
Philbin said the summer heat was tough to overcome during the chow-down, but it didn't slow him enough to let second place winner Allen Goldstein, of Plainview, N.Y., catch up.
Goldstein, 42, who works in the medical field, ate 20 hot dogs as his wife and coach, Greta, cheered him the whole way.
"Competitive eating is basically 25 percent stomach capacity, 75 percent mental," said Goldstein, who danced along to pop music while eating.
A crowd gathered to watch the contestants, including people who made a special trip to watch the contest and travelers who happened to wander by.
"Gluttony has now become a national sport," said Russ Dodge, a 68-year-old from Salem County who was manning a table for the state Division of Fish and Wildlife during a sidewalk fair at the rest stop. "It's a sign of the times."
Philbin, who joined the competitive eating circuit last year after winning a radio show's egg nog drinking contest, won a trophy, a year's supply of Nathan's hot dogs and his second trip to the Coney Island finals. He ate 20 hot dogs at that competition last year.
The finals will feature 15 participants representing the United States and four international competitors.