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The sporting life

Wet buns and long chukkers included



While so-called sports journalists focused their attention on NASCAR, baseball and World Cup soccer, Atlanta hosted the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest last Sunday at Zoo Atlanta. Sanctioned by the New York City-headquartered International Federation of Competitive Eating, the winner qualified to compete in the Nathan's Famous International Hot Dog Eating Championship on July 4 in Coney Island, New York.

No, really.

Anyone who's ever been to a public beach or swimming pool would suppose that junk-food-loving America would be the undisputed world power of competitive eating. But believe it or not, we face stiff competition from abroad. In fact, the current world record holder for competitive hot dog eating is Takeru Kobayashi from Japan, who nearly doubled the existing record by eating 50 hot dogs (with buns) in 12 minutes at last year's Coney Island championship.

Doing the announcing and color commentary for the Atlanta competition were sports-talk radio host Steak Shapiro from 790-AM (The Zone) and Rich Shea, president of the IFOCE and self-described "social eater." The 20 or so competitors sat at a long banquet table with plates of hot dogs in front of them. When -- and if -- they finished their plates, a new full plate would immediately be brought to them. The competitors also had cups of water. Not only was the water used to wash down the food, but the pros dipped their hot dog buns in the water until they turned to paste so they didn't have to spend precious time chewing them.

Taking an early lead was a guy named Boone. He started strong, but about halfway through the competition, he began to look very strained and pretty much stopped eating. His face turned red and his eyes bulged, creating a tense moment as the audience waited to see if he'd recover. He then began coughing, and within a few seconds turned his head to the side and vomited behind the table. More shocking to me than this Technicolor disqualification was how the man right next to Boone kept on eating as if there wasn't a bucket of puke next to him.

Slow and steady wins the race, and the eventual winner was a man named Don Schaefer. There was some confusion toward the end about the final number, but I believe that Schaefer took in about 20 dogs and buns for the state title. He also qualifies for the Coney Island (meat) meet on July 4.

Hung Like A ... : While so-called sports journalists focused their attention on NASCAR, baseball and World Cup soccer, Atlanta hosted the United States Women's Polo Federation's inaugural game last weekend at the Atlanta Polo Club in Vinings (perhaps not coincidentally, on Polo Lane).

Saturday's match between the Eastern and Western Circuit teams (sort of the Tupac vs. Notorious B.I.G. of polo) didn't draw a huge crowd. According to league commissioner Kimberly Carr-Cavallo, Sunday's match was supposed to have a bigger crowd and a post-match martini party. It sure would've been nice to find that out before driving all the way out to Saturday's match.

Pissiness aside, I still enjoyed the match and learned a thing or two. If they invite me back, I'll come (that's a hint, Kim). First, I learned that polo matches are divided into periods called chukkers. I attended the game with a fellow CL writer, and he and I derived tremendous amusement that afternoon and evening using the word "chukker" as often as possible. Secondly, I learned that even though polo is a sport associated with high society, and people who aspire to be part of high society (a friend of mine describes the makeup of a typical polo team as a three dentists and a Brazilian), it seems that everyone is welcome at the Atlanta Polo Club. They weren't even checking for tickets.

Not Testifest: PushPush Theater hosted a combination spoken word/music/drag show from EstroFest Productions called Vamp/Revamp. Ostensibly an exploration of the meaning of gender, the performances didn't really connect with me. It felt more like a pep rally or a support group meeting for lesbians and transgendered people than a performance. It seems that, to a community that justifiably feels marginalized, the simple act of performing publicly has an inherent artistic value. But since I'm not part of the community, I felt like I was being read aloud to from someone's diary, often with startling self-indulgence. The worst offender was a poet named Gemini, whose repertoire included a "poem" that began, "What the fuck are you looking at?" and another during which she silently stroked a dildo that was poking through the front of her pants. Nice.

Sonic Sorbet: After Vamp/Revamp, I headed to The Earl , in desperate need of some some loud rock 'n' roll to cleanse my mental palate. Performing the assigned task was local favorite Dropsonic. The band is skull-pounding yet rhythmically agile, and the singer tilts his head just like Radiohead's Thom Yorke when he sings. I'm fresh out of descriptions other than "loud, pounding and loud." Rhythmic, but not funky, with driving guitars -- not guitar music that's good for listening to while driving, but guitars with drive. Loud, loud and loud. Did I mention how loud they were? Washed the dildo images right out of my head.

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