My good friend, who wishes to remain anonymous, managed to sprain his ankle this past weekend. He had one too many drinks Saturday night, stumbled on a curb and woke up the next morning with more than just a pounding headache. After several days of hobbling around, he was persuaded to see a doctor and the news he received was crushing.
The doctor said it was pretty badly sprained, gave him an air-cast and told him he should take it easy for awhile. He told him the air-cast could probably come off in about a week but that it would be several weeks, maybe months, before he could run on it again or anything like that.
It was news my friend had a hard time swallowing. He had had big plans for this summer. He wanted to start running again and try to get back into shape. He had thought about picking up tennis again and was looking forward to playing basketball outside.
The doctor told him that there was really nothing he could do and the injury simply needed time to heal, but that if he really wanted to keep that competitive fire alive he should look into the IFOCE.
The IFOCE, or the International Federation of Competitive Eating, is an organization that can trace its roots back to the beginning of the 20th century. A sport of international appeal, competitive eating itself dates back to mankind's earliest days and stands alongside such original athletic endeavors as running and throwing.
If several cavemen, as the official IFOCE Web site explains, are standing around and a rabbit walks in, a competitive eating situation has developed.
Competitive eating has evolved into a much more formalized sport in modern times and has actually been experiencing a renaissance of sorts in the last decade or so in America. Now embraced in such countries as Canada, Germany, Thailand, England and Russia, the sport has long been dominated by the Japanese. Competitive eating superstars like Takeru \The Tsunami"" Kobayashi and Kazutoyo Arai have become household names in Japan and are slowly becoming so on the international circuit as well.
Major reasons for the recent American revival include the increasing popularity of the Nathan's Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest held in Coney Island each year'considered the de facto Olympics of the sport'and the recent Fox special ""The Glutton Bowl.""
Prior to its airing, the IFOCE promised the show, which Fox stacked against the Winter Olympics and figure skating, would deliver action and drama not seen in the sport since the famous East-West rivalry of Hirofurmi Nakajimar and Edward Krachie of the mid-1990s. When it was over, few disagreed.
With color commentary provided by IFOCE chairman George Shea and Emmy award winner Mark Thompson (whose resume includes ""When Good Pets Go Bad""), the show pitted 40 of the world's most talented professional gurgitators against each other and included such events as eating barrels full of hard-boiled eggs, licking clean huge bowls of mayonnaise and devouring cow brains.
My friend, who watched Fox's special last February with an almost eerie intensity says he may have found his calling. He plans on warming up on the early summer barbeque circuit (which kicks off with this month's graduation ceremonies) and says that Nathan's in July is not out of the question.
Long live sport!