Sports Illustrated magazine for a while ran a regular feature called "Sport – Not a Sport" in which it debated whether certain activities, such as cheerleading, ice dancing or synchronized swimming were really sports.
Whether those examples are sports is certainly debatable, at least they all involve some level of physical proficiency and effort.
But there's one activity that is televised on ESPN2, no less, every Fourth of July that is most emphatically not a sport – the disgusting spectacle called the Hot Dog Eating Contest.
I often watch ESPN and ESPN2, but I stay as far away as possible from my TV during that broadcast.
Unfortunately, it's still all too easy to catch highlights, or "lowlights," of it later that day on Sports Center or even the network news.
Sadly, it seems to be popular enough to have made Joey Chestnut (see, even I know his name) and his ilk very wealthy, solely because they have developed a "talent" for stuffing a huge number of hot dogs down their throat in 10 minutes.
What does this say about our culture? At a time when obesity is becoming a burgeoning health threat, what kind of example does this set for our children?
While the odds of any child growing up to be a professional athlete are miniscule, I'd certainly rather see them aspiring to play professional basketball, hockey, tennis or golf (I'm not so sure about football, given our increasing knowledge of the health risks associated with that sport) than aspiring to eat 60 or 70 hot dogs in a very short sitting.
Oh, I know eating contests as part of our culture go way back, to pie eating contests at county fairs and similar affairs (like Paul Newman eating hard-boiled eggs in "Cool Hand Luke"), but the Coney Island travesty is an eating contest probably literally on steroids.
I don't get any fun out of watching it, and I don't know how anyone could get any fun out of doing it, so stop the madness!
Julia F. Swan