Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Summer Means Hot Dogs and Baseball: Ol' Jack Frost Guest Blogs

Full report from last night's amazingly fun Home Run Derby - seriously, and I went into expectations of this thing that were slightly higher than Superman Returns after the clunker last year - but since I'm just heading out the door, I'll leave you with commentary on an event just as crucial to your typical American summer:

The Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest.

Although I feel awkward turning the Blog O' Fun over to two Trojans, it's freaking Pete Winter, man. Without further ado, Pete's commentary on that blissful July 4th day, followed by that of his lovely girlfriend and traveling companion, Kaelyn.

The Epicenter of Patriotism

by Peter Winter

I am sitting at work, with countless issues of international importance on the agenda, yet I can help but think of truly the most important event to bless this country, nay, to bless mankind. No, it is not the advent of global communications, or the World Cup, nor is it Ghandi’s fast for human rights or MLK’s dreaming. No, it is the shining beacon atop every mountain, the great hope that lies just out of man’s desperate grasp. I, ladies and gentleman, am here to talk about the great Nathan’s International Hot Dog Eating Contest. The Epicenter of Patriotism, of all that is just and holy in this world.

My pilgrimage begins in the dense woods of Connectikwaw, or for those not attuned to respecting the wisdom of Native American naming, Connecticut. Side by side with my foundation of moral and human support, Ms. Kaelyn Eckenrode, I began the perilous journey to Coney Island, the southernmost most point of the battlefield that is Crooklyn. One misstep threatened to dash our dreams, as a careless wrong turn landed us in the war torn northeast neighborhood, hardly a place for the carefree bounce of my golden curls, or the aspiring and joyous spirit of Ms. Eckenrode. While the streets were cold, countless children called out to me from behind the Honda Civic’s glass: “Please Sir, Please! The Great Footlong will bring salvation to our people! Take us with you on your glorious voyage!” Sadly, I declared no, for our rations were low and the journey long, with the Eckenmonster already scavenging 8 of our 9 bananas.

We arrived in Coney astonished. The streets were empty! Where were the people desperate to see the only true manifestation of the undying human spirit? The glorious Hot Dog Countdown Clock loomed like a hulking beast overhead, waiting vengefully in the shadows for its time to strike. The massive numbers tolled down, with the shutter of a thousand tsunamis raining down on Mt. Olympus as every second withered away. Oh my! I feel the peer of a hundred eyes staring at me. What is this feeling? I looked around, stunned to see glooming white eyes creeping out of the darkness. People were coming slowly from the woodworks, now feeling safe that one man had dared set foot on such holy ground. I had led these people to freedom, and only one man could deliver that final gift of life…

That man…..is Kobayashi. For atop a glorious crane, the man raised towards the heavens. Once a scrappy piece of human flesh, he is now a hulking mass of godly immortalness. The stomach size of a bull, the heart of lion, he walks saintly on the stage towards his archrival, the dragon in the dusk, Lord Joey Chestnut. For if ever two greater forces were to meet, it would surely be the end of our world, as God and Satan battle for our righteous land.

Eating hot dogs is the universal measure of patriotism, and only one Japanese dares to carry it on his back, never wavering to the temptations of a white flag. As the bell tolls, the great feast of feasts begins its intrepid 12-minute climax. The glorious dogs, snuggled effortlessly in their tight buns, gleamed as the sunshine glistened across their moist meatiness. I dare say that there has never been a more stunning day, with the crisp blue sky gently kissing the heads of all who came to such a sight, bestowing its blessing on the shoulders of the poor and weak. With every second, Kobayashi fought furiously, sinking his lordly jaws into the meal that has claimed so many in the past. No one dares forget the misfortunes of Poppa William Higgins, who knew no limit. Once a king among competitive eaters, he now lays at the bottom of a merciless ranking system, victim of the cowardly Hotdogscrumptilitus. Like a sharp blade piercing the heart of a Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man, the disease has claimed yet another soul of the courageous.

As the clock collapses toward its final toll, Kobayashi and Lord Chestnut are standing side by side, both approaching the heavenly mark of 50 dogs. Is our noble knight doomed at the hands of an American challenger? History reveals terrible results for such clashes (I think you know what I’m talking about), but I know history is to be rewritten this day. With the last second, our steed Kobayashi slams home his 54th weiner!! Chestnut has been vanquished, and the glorious Japanese nation is to be hoisted high above the heavens for all eternity. Dare I say they now sit with the likes of Zeus himself, looking blissfully down on the world in which they have created, together. Man has dared to dream, and Man has overcome…

Eckenrode has lost it. She did not expect to witness such an overwhelming show of human spirit in her lifetime. The experience has left her with a heart filled with love and courage, yet a mind full of bewilderment and profundity. Though she was weak, it was nothing the sweet sustenance of an immortal dog could not cure. Chestnut lay vanquished in the corner, the sweet sustenance all over his fine tweed suit (not unlike one man I know at a certain BP formal). Yet he too, was a saint, for he dared to live a life of challenge, and for that the heavens smile upon him.

I have witnessed a god among men, noble Kobayashi, and my life has been made whole because of it. Others had tried. Badlands” Booker even rapped, his equally large son by his side. Yet he couldn’t scratch the pure manliness required of such a warrior. For such a man is not fit for this world, only his legacy…

And the second view of Kobayashi's amazing run, by fellow UConn fan and Mrs. Pete Winter:

The Best Day of My Life

by Kaelyn Forde Eckenrode

Ah, July in New England. The seersuckers are out of the closets, and the mass immigration of pale, bony Yankees to the rocky, expensive shores of towns named after salt water mollusks is in full swing. After parking on the lawn of an otherwise miserable old coot for $50, families trek to the sand so that their children may play in the three months of actual sunshine this coast has, and absorb their Vitamin D. Over this Middle Kingdom, the Grill reins supreme.

By 10:30 a.m. on July 4, 2006, most New Englanders had already entered their barbequed-meat-induced comas, stumbling around while clutching spatulas, bedecked in their Old Navy celebratory tee shirts, flip flops and cover-alls. We, however, were not among them, having instead risen early (no small feat, as we sleep on the finest 3,000 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets, surrounded by trained monkeys who fan and peel us grapes all evening) and already departed on a sacred pilgrimage to the Vatican of Competitive Eating itself, Coney Island.

I, a beautiful Black Irish princess whose modesty and Kennedy resemblances are limitless, had joined an intrepid, heartbreaking young haberdasher by the name of Peter Winter, or Kent Jones, as he is known to the Armenians and some Notre Dame co-eds, in this holiest journey, and as we entered Long Island, I couldn’t help but feel that we had become a part of something far bigger than ourselves, and crafted the world’s longest sentence, too.

Pete maneuvered our mighty vessel, the Honda Civic, in and out of the Crooklyn traffic like whichever Dale Earnhardt isn’t dead (my deepest sympathy to both his biological and NASCAR families) and we arrived unscathed at a parking lot full of sweat-pant clad, portly Italian gentlemen who called Pete “chicky” because they were so sex-starved and because he is, in fact, a blonde bombshell. We had already met our close friend and spiritual mentor, Mr. Daniel Harris, at the gate to a subway that smelled like the opening minutes of a Right Guard commercial.

After pressing $20 and a cannoli bribe into Crookiepuss’ sweaty palm, we set off for what promised to be the best day of our lives. Three Jersey girls, complete with Budweiser bellies or unborn children, walked in front of us, their crooked puff paint and undershirt tributes to the not-yet-canonized-saints above them charming. My vision was blurred with tears of joy as we approached Father Time—which read just 1 hour until life truly began.

We gathered long before most of the others, wanting to miss not one eighth-note of Badlands Booker’s tribute to his own life-shortening obesity. The crowd included the old, the young, the fat and the slender—but such differences matter not in the eyes of God, nor in the eyes of The Man in the Enormous Hot Dog Suit, who towered above the mere mortals of the Tri-State Area like a proper deity. As the half-hour mark approached, some of the women began weeping with joy and fear, and the men pulled them to their strong chests to comfort them because they couldn’t do it themselves (Author’s Note: if posting on the Sarah Lawrence/Barnard website, please replace “men” with “equal partners” and “strong chests” with “equal partners” and “they couldn’t do it themselves” with “are equal partners”).

There are not many days of the year when the obese, the bald, the still-living-with-their-parents and the 30-year-old-virgins are paraded across a stage to raucous cheering, but July 4, 2006 was not just another day of the year. America’s Heroes came tumbling across the stage to stand by The Man in the Enormous Hot Dog Suit, and I can’t say it could have been a more amazing display of pure patriotism (unless they had jumped out of a NYFD fire truck, Nathan’s please take note). I could feel Pete’s excitation crackling through the air beside me.

With fifteen minutes left till The Reckoning, the crowd grew silent. Babies stopped crying, and dogs licked the backs of cats. Palestinians and Israelis dropped their arms, and Ann Coulter French-kissed Hilary Clinton. All were in pure anticipation of The Glory that was before them: Kobayashi had arrived.

Since we had last seen him in all His Magnificence, Pete marveled that he had traded in his Pokemon deck for the highly affordable Bowflex Home Gym System (a steal at just 6 payments of $99.95), for his muscles bulged out of his Nathan’s regulation-size tee shirt. His mouth agape in a primal scream, we caught just a fleeting glimpse of the mighty esophagus that would carry his 53 ¾ hot dogs to their final resting place among the Saints…

But in every great fight, there is a contender. And, emerging just after The Legend Himself was Joey Chestnut, the all-American mama’s boy who drove most of the Caucasian girls moderately crazy. With a name like a Country Western star and the face of a nondescript Mall model, he, too, was a crowd favorite. Clearly, it wasn’t enough for those gathered to partake in The Reckoning, they also wanted to rewrite history.

My skin tingled as we counted down together “Ten…nine…eight” led by The Man in the Enormous Hot Dog Suit, who guides all of my moral decisions anyway. In a flash, the contest had begun, and I was reborn…

There were the buns, oh, the buns! Dr. Atkins was spinning in his double-wide grave at the sight of their puffy whiteness, each one sliced on its heavenly North-South axis like a palace of the ages. The buns, I feared, would fill the stomachs of even the Greatest Gladiators, expanding with all of their carbohydrate might. But the buns were not, of course, the main attraction, and from our place among the thousands, we could see each Gladiator bringing to his tender lips the hot dogs…

Nestled inside, like a long-awaited first child in its hospital blanket, were the hot dogs, oh, the hot dogs! And what hot dogs they were! They were all at once fat, long and plump—encompassing the best of what both Christian and Jewish America have to offer. Ballpark met Bar Mitzvah and Drive-In met Cookout all in one mysterious meat-tube. I scarcely had time to admire them as they wiggled down Kobayashi’s throat.

The crowd cheered and let the universal joy wash over them. Pete and me were reborn, holding each other close and praying, counting, chanting, pushing our Gladiators on to victory. Chestnut was trailing the Samurai by only 2 hot dogs when the final minute began, but even the chorus of his Jersey girls’ cheers weren’t enough for him to triumph. Just as they had in so many realms before this—automotive, electronic, Ivy League schools—the Asian continent had once again triumphed over North America

53 ¾ hot dogs within the depths of his being, tickling his very soul, KOBAYASHI HAD ONCE AGAIN BEEN CROWNED PRINCE OF HEAVEN! The moment lingers in my memory as The One That Changed Me, and forever will.

As we dispersed into Crooklyn with the rest of the crowd, I dare say I saw a tear of pure, boundless joy drip from the mighty Pete Winter’s brilliant blue eye; yet such a show of emotion must be expected from a man who has just, in 12 minutes and in 53 ¼ hot dogs, lived his dream. Holding tightly to his mighty hand, I knew we had been changed, reborn, and awakened…and we will remain that way for the remaining 364 days, 23 hours, and 59 minutes.

I'm just going to keep finding guest-bloggers to cover up for my never being here- Barcus is doing an essay on The Office, I think I threatened Sean into writing something - but I'll be back tonight with some All-Star Game and Derby coverage. Viva La Summer.

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