July 7, 2010

Conspicuous Dogs

"Joey Chestnut is declared the winner in an overtime 5 hot dog tie-breaking chow down. first time since 1919. His total for the day was 64 hot dogs." From Flickr user dietrich.

Sometimes with a little creativity and a certain perspective, many things that humans do on a day to day basis can look pretty strange and fascinating. Sometimes the things humans do are just plain bizarre, and it doesn't take a lot of effort to make that realization. The annual Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, which was on TV this past weekend, is a case in point. In fact, I saw highlights from this year's competition on ESPN. Is this a sport? For some people, it is. I understand the basic point of the competition, but what are the deeper meanings? Are there any deeper meanings? Why would it be appealing to consume massive amounts of cheap food in front of a crowd--what kind of status or social prestige is gained from this?

If this isn't a perfect example of conspicuous consumption, I don't know what is. Eating food can only be categorized as competitive entertainment in a society that has a surplus of accessible food. Right? It would actually be interesting to look further into this and find out why people participate in this event, why spectators watch it, and why it has become associated with the Fourth of July, of all things.

For a little more about competitive eating, check out Horsemen of the Esophagus: Competitive Eating and the Big Fat American Dream by Jason Fagone.

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