Sonya Sorich: Why do we love July 4 hot dog eating contests? (VIDEO)

July 3, 2012 

Chances are, not every random person on the street knows why we celebrate July 4.

But when someone calls the holiday a festival of digestive tolerance, you know our country's in trouble.

I wouldn't be surprised if it happened.

The Fourth of July, long associated with apple pie and patriotic colors, in recent years has become tied to competitive eating -- namely, hot dog eating contests.

The link isn't entirely a stretch.

But isn't one hot dog enough? Are vomit buckets and water-dipped buns really the best reflections of our nation's progress?

Well, maybe so.

The Big Kahuna of July 4 competitive eating contests? Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, held at Coney Island.

The men's contest takes place at noon, but will air on ESPN at 3 p.m., according to the event's official website. It will be streamed live on ESPN3.com.

You have plenty of local opportunities to indulge in some July 4 gluttony, too.

A hot dog eating contest is included in Wednesday's Thunder on the 'Hooch activities. Most of the festival will be held at Woodruff Park (10th Street and Bay Avenue). Visit ledger-enquirer.com/todo for details.

Downtown Columbus hot spot Bootleggers, 1039 Broadway, will also have a hot dog eating contest Wednesday. Registration is 9-10 p.m. and contest starts at 10 p.m. Expect cash prizes for first, second and third places.

I have some reservations about these contests.

It's hard to counter arguments that the mass quantities of food consumed should instead be donated to homeless shelters.

And I agreed when a Slate writer recently pointed out how New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's crusade against big sodas doesn't exactly line up with New York's role in the aforementioned Nathan's contest.

Still, it's pretty darn fun to watch.

I spent many July 4 holidays watching the Nathan's festivities on TV with my family. My dad said he'd be fine if I aspired to be nothing other than a professional eater.

Last weekend, I watched a hot dog eating contest at Columbus hot spot Spicoli's. The winner ate 19 hot dogs in 10 minutes.

Competitive eating might not embody our entire nation, but it certainly showcases a bloated, gluttonous slice of American life.

Sonya Sorich, reporter, can be reached at ssorich@ledger-enquirer.com or 706-571-8516. Visit ledger-enquirer.com/sonya to read her columns.

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