Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Major League Eating: The Game "Interview"

(An Interview with Erik the Red from Cyberspace):

So, have you played the game yet?

Yes, I downloaded it from Wii Ware a couple of days after it was released last Monday.

What are your initial impressions of the game? Give us some highlights.

I think the game is very entertaining. Anytime you take something from reality and turn it in to a video game, I think the hope is that there is a subconscious reaction inside of the player that makes them feel like they are participating in the reality; and this game does that for me. I like the game because it is a challenging 2 minutes of competition that requires skill and focus just like a reality eating competition. And actually the game requires a lot of physical exertion, my arm is sore right now in fact from an intense burp-off duel I had recently with El Toro.

One of my favorite features of the game is the sounds that the characters and the announcers make. There is constant action in the game while getting the food to the mouth, chewing, clearing your stomach, burping, farting, biting your tongue, or suffering a reversal of fortune - the sounds and the vibrations of the Wii remote bring the action to life and defitnitely add to the comedy of the game. Good to hear Badlands' and George Shea's voices mixed in the game as well.

How does it feel to play yourself in a video game?

I pretty much continuously laugh when I am playing as myself or against my avatar in the game. It is an honor and it is a total blast to have a digital replication of myself that is based on me but yet still acts autonomously. Even though the character in the video game is based on me in reality, I don’t feel emotionally attached to my character however. For example, I recently competed as Crazy Legs against my girlfriend who played as my character in a hot dog eating contest. When I beat her and made her/me reverse the dogs I was happy that I won and had no sympathy for “Erik the Red”, the video game character, for blowing chunks. Though, I will admit it feels especially good to beat people while playing as myself.

How do you like your character’s look? Anything you would change?

My character has a fun look. My hair is super spiked; the bandana is obviously a signature of mine that I am glad they captured well. I like that my character is recognizable as me, in that the features do somehow look like mine (so I have been told) but also, some features are exaggerated, such as my elongated chin in the pre-match screen. I would obviously like my character to have more muscle mass and more capacity but okay reality gets in the way again.

Two small things I would change about my characters physical appearance would be my green shorts in the game mode and my sunglasses. Everyone knows that green shorts don’t match a red shirt, I think white or black shorts would look better on my character. And a more updated pair of sunglasses, the sunglasses my character is sporting look a bit like a classic pair of Vuarnets from the late 80’s. But all-in-all I am very happy with my character’s appearance.

Have you been able to beat the game by defeating all of the characters in the single-player mode?

Honestly, I have not been able to defeat Tim Janus at burritos yet which means I have not made it very far in the game. I guess the game is a little too much like reality in that sense.

How can someone get their hands on the game?

If you don’t own a Nintendo Wii yet then first you will need to buy one of those. If you already own a Nintendo Wii, than it is pretty simple, you can do it from your couch. The game is only available online through Wii Ware:

1. Connect your Wii to the Internet using WiFi or a lan line (requires USB converter sold separately). The Wii is already setup for WiFi so if you have a wireless internet connection at your home this is preferred and is really easy to setup (refer to the Wii owner’s manual for simple instructions).
2. Once your Wii is connected to the Internet, go to the Wii Shop Channel from the Wii Menu, Click Wii Ware, and search for Major League Eating the Game.
3. If you have never purchased anything from the Wii Shop Channel, you will first need to purchase Wii Points. 1,000 Wii Points are required to download the game. 1,000 Wii Points = $10.00 ($10.90 including tax). You can purchase Wii Points from the Wii Shop menu using your credit card (points show up immediately once your card information is approved).
4. Once you have the required 1,000 Wii Points in your account, Click on the game icon and click download the game (takes approximately 10 minutes to download)! The game will show up on your Wii Menu once it is downloaded. That’s it, start playing!

Do you think there will be future iterations of the game or a possible hard copy release?

Hopefully the downloaded version of the game will be a big success which could lead to a future hard copy release of the game. I would hope that a more robust hard copy version could include more current and old school eaters, more scenarios, and options to customize your own character. But I really think it all depends on the success of the current Wii Ware format.

Any final thoughts about the game?

The game really is comical and challenging to play especially in the Versus mode against your friends. For only $10.00 dollars, it is a steal and will help ease your hunger pains between competitive eating competitions.

I would like to say thank you to Major League Eating and Mastiff for making the game a reality. Don’t wake me up please.

(I will be posting some video of actual game play soon)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Chinook Winds BBQ Ribs Results 7/13/08

Lincoln City, OR

12 minute contest (IFOCE rank in parenthesis):

1 -Joey Jaws Chestnut (1) - 8.05 lbs
2 - Rich the Locust LeFevre (7) - 5.3 lbs
3 - Erik the Red Denmark (12) - 4.55 lbs
4 - Jason the Erbivore Erb (34) - 3.7 lbs
5 - David Brickhouse Braunstein (31) - 3.35 lbs
6 - Andrew McKirdy (NR) - 2.75 lbs
7T - Carl the Hungarian Freight Train Ronto (NR) - 2.65 lbs
(Carl was the amateur champion the past two years)

complete results:

(Scott Sayer is "Scott S"), "Earthquak Jake" won the media contest with 2.75 lbs in 6 minutes the day before

Déjà vu all over again. This was my third straight year participating in this contest and the top four finishers have been the same each year. Obviously, I was hoping for better this year but Rich and certainly Joey are stallwarts at this contest. This contest has been a bit of a victory lap for Joey the past two years after winning at Nathan's, he has been able to ride the wave and run away with the title. Rich always manages to keep a frantic yet steady pace for the entire 12 minutes, one that I have not been able to match.

This year we were presented with 5 lb plates (meat and bone) of pork ribs as opposd to years past when we had 3 lb plates I believe. Not a big difference, but it does help to get an idea of pacing if the plate increments are smaller. Either way, I think I ate at about the same pace the entire contest, which is totally against how I usually eat. The ribs came off the bone pretty easily but the meat was more chewy (maybe more fatty?) which made it harded to swallow in my oipinion.

It is not a satisfying feeling at the end of a contest to feel totally normal and no pain or discomfortort from the food that was just eaten. Sounds backward but really it is the worst feeling in competitive eating. It hasn't happened often in my career, I usually feel like I want to crawl out of my skin at the end of a contest. But after the ribs I felt totally comfortable, like I had just eaten a big lunch after the contest. This is not a good feeling, it means I didn't get close to my capacity. My total poundage for this year was slightly below what I ate last year (4.7) but I felt 10 times better after the contest. I don't know what that means, I guess I need to figure out how to eat ribs faster.

Regardless, this is one of my favorite venues and contests on the circuit and it is the only regular contest that I can drive to. It really has been a no-stress envirnoment, just a chill weekend at the beach and slamming some ribs on Sunday. Thanks again to Heather and the Chinook Winds Casino and Resort for being such great hosts. I'll be back next year.

Click Here to view my pics from the contest
Click Here to view News Guard article recapping the contest

Monday, July 07, 2008

Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Championship - Overtime keeps the Mustard Colored Belt in US with Joey Chestnut, 7/4/2008

Coney Island, NY - The original Nathan's at the corner of Surf and Stillwell

Complete Results (current IFOCE rank in parenthesis):

1 - Joey Jaws Chestnut (1) - 59 + 5 in OT
2 - Takeru the Tsunami Kobayashi (3) - 59 + 4.5 in OT
3 - Tim Eater X Janus (4) - 42
4 - Pat Deep Dish Bertoletti (2) - 38
5 - Sonya the Black Widow Thomas (6) - 34
6T - Humble Bob Shoudt (5) - 30
6T - Hall Hoover Hunt (8) - 30
8 - Juliet Lovely Lee (10) - 29
9T - Erik the Red Denmark (12) - 28
9T - Juris Dr. Big Time Shibayama (17) - 28
11 - Tim Gravy Brown (13) - 27
12 - Eric Badlands Booker (NR) - 25.5
13T - Rich the Locust LeFevre (7) - 25
13T - Patrick Van-damage Vandam (45) - 25 (nickname coined by Kate Westfall)
15 - Crazy Legs Conti (11) - 24
16 - Allen Shredder Goldstein (15) - 21
17 - Pat from Moonachie Philbin (21) - 19
18 - Nasty Nate Biller (30) - 18.5
19 - Pete Pretty Boy Davekos (25) - 18
20 - Arturo the Natural Rios (14) - 16
21 - Kevin "00" Ross (29) - 14

Just before the eating begins...(pic taken by valjean615 , used with permission)

The contest was truncated to 10 minutes this year; it has been 12 minutes for every contest in the modern era. 2 minutes may not seem like a lot but in terms of competitive eating it creates a drastic change in psychological and physical preparation. Joey and Kobayashi proved once again, maybe in even more of a staggering light this year, that they are the elite of this sport. The two of them drive themselves to a place that honestly I think makes the both of them dread going. But it is so entertaining and invigorationg to see Chestnut and Kobayashi so determined not to lose and so driven to prove themselves that they go way beyond the point they would ever go without each others' competition.

The result after 10 minutes was a virtual tie at 59. The overtime format was decided on the fly to be the first one to eat 5 HDB's. This is not a traditional overtime format; usually overtime would be either a one or two minute sudden death. But, I actually think it was a good decision by George Shea, Charles Hardy, and Ryan Nerz to go with a first to 5 format because they were both already so close to their physical limit that any more than 5 dogs would likely have pushed one of them to reverse. Neither of them was going to give up and with a cleared mouth they could both probably do more than 5 dogs in one minute even after 59 down already.

Despite what I thought was a fair format, the overtime decided almost nothing because they were virtually tied again. It was a blur of stuffing, but both Koby and Joey had a ball of buns and meat in their hands that they were trying to stuff in first to claim victory. Initially it looked like Kobayashi had gotten the food to his mouth first, but after the both of them stuffed the mass in to their mouths, Kobayashi still had about half of a bun in his hand that he had to go back and grab after Joey had stuffed the last bit in and that was the difference. Joey raised his arms in victory a bit premature before it was called, but he quickly lowered his arm and gulped some liquid to clear his mouth first after George screamed that they needed to clear their mouth. It was hard to see from the ESPN broadcast and even from the crowd that Koby still had food left in his hand during that last stuff and many believed that Kobayashi should have been declared the victor.

It is hard to say that Kobayashi did not deserve the victory on the 4th but Joey was technically a fraction better and just as deserving. In the post eating interview with ESPN, Joey had a good quote when he said that "he (Kobayashi) wanted it but I needed it." Well said Joey and you definitely proved it. Takeru probably could have stuffed a bit more in at the end of regulation (he mentions in his blog here), Joey was behind in the last minute and I know that hurts Kobayashi and will drive him for the next re-match. The good news for Kobayashi is that he seems to have moved beyond his jaw injury and although he has lost some power, he has made adjustments in his eating style and mentally he is back in the game now.

Kobayashi is confident the day before at the weigh in and
Joey signs autographs in Coney after his victory

I managed to eat a personal best for any time limit of 28 HDB's. My goal going in to the day was to put up a PR and finish in the top 10. I ended up in a tie for 9th place so I have to say I am satisfied with the result. My 28 dogs and improvement of +4 HDB's from my qualifying number was a bit of an anomaly as almost everyone in the contest failed to eat as many as they did in qualifying. Only Crazy Legs (ate 21.5 to qualify) and I actually improved on our qualifying number (I ate 24 to qualify) and I believe I was the only eater on stage to post a personal best for any time limit.

I'm swinging my..., getting ready, and interacting with the crowd (pic taken by valjean615 , used with permission)

The low numbers would suggest that the conditions were tough for eating and that a better day would have produced much bigger numbers. But, it is hard to attribute exactly why everyone seemed to struggle to perform their best. I think the shortening of the contest was a big factor because it usually takes a couple of minutes to get in to the rhythm of eating on the 4th for whatever reason, But the last few minutes are always easier to make up ground because of the incredible energy of the crowd and the moment. This year, there was no time to make up any ground that was lost in the first couple of minutes because of the 10 minute format.

Obviously, there are more distractions on the 4th than with any other contest. The stage and the crowd is so electric and there is so much anticipation of the event that it is so easy to not be able to focus solely on eating what is in front of you. I know it happened to me last year when I only managed to eat 23 in 12 minutes in the finals which was considerably lower than my capability and my qualifying total. I used the experience I had last year as motivation to focus only on eating this year and to try and not get too caught up in the theatrics of the event. Even though I thoroughly enjoy all of the entertainment of the day aside from the eating, I know that not putting up a big number hurts and takes a long time to get over. Either that or I just sucked in my qualifier this year which made my final total look like such an improvement. Either way, it feels good to put up a personal best on the biggest stage.

Despite the fact that not everyone put up their personal best, there was some impressive results this year. Crazy Legs' (24 HDB) nearly reached his goal of 25 HDB's, in fact he had them in his mouth but his judged discounted 1 HDB for debris. Hall Hunt posted 30 HDB's and finished tied for 6th continuing his rise up the top 10. Eater X improved from 4th last year to 3rd this year finally taking home some hardware with his consistent attack on the 40+ HDB mark. Badlands' (25.5 HDB) return was a welcomed relief; we need Badlands at the table eating not just rapping. Gravy Brown (27 HDB) threw up some huge numbers this year in qualifying and improved significantly over last year's final number (22.5 to 27). Both Juliet (29 HDB) and Sonya (34 HDB's) represented the "X" chromosomes well finishing in 8th and 5th respectively while taking up virtually no room at the middle of the table. Patrick Vandam led in impressive group of rookies to the final table. Despite not achieving his eye popping qualifier total of 31; Vandamage still impressed with 25 in the finals. And Dr. Big Time (28 HDB) did indeed prove he has top 10 talent.

The 4th of July has quickly and easily become my favorite day of the year. I had a great time competing and hanging with all of the eaters in NY. The fraternity of competitive eaters is a uniquely entertaining and elite group of talented nut cases. Special thanks to Crazy Legs and Nicole for arranging the after parties. It was great to see so many new faces and impressive rookies at the final table, the experience will be a propeller for better things to come.

A lasting image of Arturo following his wardrobe malfunction walking in the shadow of the Wall of Fame

The Road to Nathan's is complete for this year and now we look forward to the Krystal Burger Championship on September 28, one month earlier than last year. See you all soon!

See you all next year! (pic taken by valjean615 , used with permission)