Saturday, July 5, 2008

George Shea Did Not Disappoint

Well how was that for a Fourth of July hot dog eating contest? It had everything you could want (in an event where grown adults try to cram an un-godly amount of food down their pipe in whatever fashion they choose in a very short amount of time)! It had drama! It had controversy! It had noise and crowds! It had euphemisms and hot dogs! But most importantly, it had George Shea.

George Shea is the co-founder of the International Federation of Competitive Eating (the IFCE), which changed its name recently to Major League Eating (forget the IFCE. Now it's MLE.) The change being due to the "rapid rise" of competitive eating " into the ranks of major American sports." Or, at least, so says the Rocky Mountain News. The man is an orator of competitive eating commentary like no other now or before him (as if there was one, and I really hope there wasn't). He takes phrases and words from here and there and then mixes them all up like they're Garanimals and somehow, by some miracle of the Word Gods, somehow they come out in a beautifully worded, slightly bizarre, somewhat confusing phrase that fits the moment and sets the scene perfectly.

As it turns out, George Shea is no slouch. The man's pretty smart. (He'd have to be to make a career and to make on heck of a living by turning competitive eating into a freaking sport.) At the very least, he's definitely well read. My favorite George Shea utterance has to be, "We arrive at this moment by the unswerving punctuality of chance!" Turns out, that phrase, according to George, is in reference to the works of William Gaddis, in which the phrase appears in every one of his five novels. (Gaddis got it from Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward, Angel, published in 1929, as it reads, "Inevitable catharsis by the threads of chaos. Unswerving punctuality of chance. Apexical summation, from the billion deaths of possibility, of things done." Um, OK. I think.) OK, I wasn't even sure who William Gaddis was when I heard George explain that this is where that phrase originated. I'm still not sure who he is, other than an author who wrote very long, very difficult to understand novels that I'm sure George Shea and about five other people really enjoyed. I think that the point I'm trying to make is that George Shea is no idiot. Or something like that.

At the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island yesterday, defending champion, the holder of the Yellow Mustard Belt, Joey Chestnut, of San Jose,CA, was defending his title against his arch enemy in the hot dog eating world, Takeru Kobayashi, of Japan. And George Shea was there to hold our hand and guide us through the most disgusting, vomitous, gag-inducing ten minutes that you will ever have the extreme displeasure of watching. (Whenever I watch this thing, as soon as it's over, I always feel like I need to take a shower.)

ESPN, for some reason, felt the need to have it's own commentators for this event. WHY they felt the need to do that is beyond me. Have they never listened to George Shea? They must not have. The guys that were doing the ESPN coverage had clearly not done their homework. They seemed to assume that the things that George says were just a bunch of wacky words all thrown together that sounded funny and they figured they could do the same. That is the only explanation for some of the crap that I heard the ESPN guys churn out. Things such as:
  • "They attack those hot dogs like Lindsay Lohan attacks a mini bar. It is completely reckless." (Lohan's too busy being a closeted lesbian these days to go after a mini bar, fellas. Try to keep up. May I suggest 'People' or 'Us' magazines?)

  • "These guys are absolute magicians. Look, hybrid Yukon, Drillbit Taylor, bleach alternative. I don't have all the answers. But what I do know is Takeru Kobayashi and Joey Chestnut, they can eat." (Too many references to too many things that don't make sense. You're trying too hard guys. The hilarity must flow.)

  • "There are certainties in sports. Tiger WILL win another Masters. Brady WILL win another Super Bowl. Lance Armstrong will, perhaps, start dating Jennifer Aniston. It's gotta be in the cards, right? And Kobayashi will win another mustard belt." (Note to self: Before rattling off the names of a bunch of sports guys who have won championships as the basis for your analogy, always make sure that they are STILL competing in the sport so you don't have to fall back on who they may or may not date at some point in the future.)

  • "If you put all the hot dogs that Kobayashi and Joey Chestnut ate end to end it would be about the equivalent of the 1st and ten marker at an NFL game." ( what's that? Oh, I know. TEN yards?! You can't just SAY 'TEN yards'? Morons.)

  • "The passion is raw but the hot dogs are cooked." (OK, that one is actually pretty good.)

Thank God that some red blooded American was actually at Coney Island to witness this prime example of classic Americana take place and uploaded the video to that YouTube thing. It is because of that patriot that we are able to hear the great George Shea operate in an arena of pure emotion as he takes us through the competition, bit by bit.

A few of the highlights from George:

  • "You can see the human struggle in every compression of the jaw. In every drop of saliva." (If you're wondering how much saliva was actually dropping, trust me. You don't want to know.)
  • "It is the daughter of Cain versus the son of Abel." (In reference to the iconic Sonya Thomas, aka The Black Widow of competitive eating.)

  • "This is Sosa-McGwire! This is Ali-Frazier! These two warriors! They are warriors! Spartans! Spar-Tans!" (Right. Just like Sosa-McGwire. Only not quite so 'roid-y.)

  • "We are approaching the three minute mark. There will be 7 minutes! 7 seas! 7 shores! 7 heavens! 7 days! 7 minutes left in this contest!"

  • "We stand here among the ghosts of the past! We have nothing left but to witness this history!"

  • "Kobayashi is an injured animal. But his skeleton is titanium!" (Huh?)

And my two personal favorite George Shea utterances from Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island, 2008:

  • "And Joey Chestnut is at fifty hot dogs. One hot dog for every state in this nation. One hot dog for every way to leave your lover. One hot dog for every hot dog for every hot dog in fifty hot dogs!" (Well, I guess if you're ever thinking of things to compare a certain number of things to and you run out of comparisons, you can always fall back on the thing itself to compare itself to. It worked for George, it can work for you!)

  • "Like a city under seige, I know not which way to turn! I am at a loss. I am like an island whose trees have been snapped by a hurricane and the trees now lie scattered like the broken letters of a long forgotten language. I know not which way to turn!" (Well, you can't argue with that. Mainly because you don't know what in the hell it means.)

Below is the video with the George Shea commentary. And while the video isn't much to watch, it's definitely worth listening to.

And in what is sort of seeming like an afterthought that I'm just throwing in, (spoiler alert!) Joey Chestnut successfully defended the Yellow Mustard Belt and won the contest. but he had to do so in OT. Joey and Kobayashi were tied at the end of the regulatory 10 minutes, so they went to a 5-dog eat off and Joey Chestnut easily crushed his opponent, Takeru Kobayashi.

Congratulations, Joey!

And thank you, George Shea!

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Vidiot said...

George Shea was in rare form yesterday. I recorded audio of his introductions of the eaters before the live telecast got under way -- they were much more colorful and extensive. 40 MB MP3 here.

Mare said...

The MP3 was AWESOME. Thanks for making that available. It was (surprisingly) WAY better than his genius during the ESPN broadcast! (SO much better than the buffoons doing the voice over commentary.) And thanks for reading.