Who’s to blame when we’re all at fault?

Is there a more disgusting spectacle on television than the now-annual Nathan’s Hot Dog eating contest?Hot_dog
As almost everyone knows by now, the contest’s goal is to challenge contestants to ingest as many hot dogs as possible within a given time frame. Cash awards are enormous. The competition is fierce and the media coverage has escalated into, dare I say it, a veritable feeding frenzy.

Juxtapose this truly gross spectacle against the reality of our country’s childhood and adult obesity epidemic and one is left to ponder: what’s become of corporate social responsibility and/or good old common sense?

Why are ESPN, CNN and all the major networks airing segments from the franks feast yet paying short shrift to the latest set of recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics? Alarmed at the wave of obese kids in our nation, the nation’s most influential group of pediatricians is recommending that docs start testing overweight kids for high cholesterol at the age of two!

It’s absolutely mind boggling to contemplate that some of today’s kids are already in trouble within 24 months of leaving the womb. On the other hand, it’s not so surprising at all.

Why is Nathan’s dismissing the health and well-being of our country’s kids by promoting a hot dog eating event that literally sickens contestants and viewers alike? Why are the sports channels and mainstream news networks covering the spectacle with jocular, lighthearted segments? And, why are Americans attending the event in person and watching it on TV?

You know our country’s out of control when no one takes responsibility for mitigating a disaster like this. If I were asked, I’d allow the event to continue (free speech, and all, etc.), but I’d display all sorts of warning labels, posters, and admonitions as well as have myriad spokespeople available to warn viewers, readers and listeners to avoid hot dogs if they have any hopes of leading a long and healthy life. I’d also run a few, up-close-and-personal case studies of morbidly obese Americans who’ve gorged on garbage like hot dogs and paid the ultimate price.

To paraphrase the Bard of Avon, the fault lies not in our stars, but in our stomachs. Nathan’s: stop promoting unhealthy eating. ESPN and others: stop publicizing this crap. My fellow Webizens: wise up and stay away from junk like hot dogs. We’ve got to stop the madness now.

17 thoughts on “Who’s to blame when we’re all at fault?

  1. What’s funny in all of this, from a marketing perspective, is that I don’t know a single person who isn’t absolutely repulsed by Nathan’s hotdog eating competition. Sure when I see it pass by on SportsCenter it gets me thinking about Nathan’s – I’m thinking about what a vile monstrosity the competition (and Nathan’s food) is.
    I wouldn’t eat at a Nathan’s regardless but if there had been any doubt, rest assured my disgust has been reaffirmed by watching people stuffing processed un-meat into their faces and fighting back the constant urge to vomit. Now that is some terrible marketing…

  2. Frankly, it’s up to the parents at an early age to teach good eating habits. We see it at the grade school level as to what they serve in the cafeteria and what snacks and drinks are available in the vending machines.
    Putting a warning label or disclaimer on the wrapper is a way of showing social responsibility, but will it be effective. How many people actually read labels now for fat content, cholesterol, calorie count, etc. before purchasing a product.
    The contest is just that, whether it’s pizza, hot dogs, clams, etc. The mentality in this country has always been the biggest, the fastest whatever. Sometimes I think we can be our own worst enemy.
    Think about the interviewing process for secretarial help. One of the first questions is, “how many words can you type a minute?” Would you accept someone with 35 or would you look for someone who could type over 60?”
    It’s a one time a year event that draws attention to Nathans.

  3. You walk a slippery slope with that sort of mentality, Bubbles. Suppose a mentally-challenged individual decides to mimic the event and, god forbid, does serious damage. His/her fault? The organizations bears no culpability?

  4. Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it, Bubbles. Remember the Jackass movie and TV series, and the number of viewers who tried copying the mindless stunts and got hurt? Corporate social responsibility should be part and parcel of every organization’s business model.

  5. What kind of moron doesn’t know stuffing your self silly with anything isn’t good for you? If McDonald’s changed the name of their Happy Meal to “Fat, Salt n’ Death” would that make it OK? We’ve covered this ground before, and I still maintain that we are not here to save the stupid people from themselves.

  6. I totally get the stunt part, Bob. But, there are a lot of impressionable kids out there who wouldn’t think twice of duplicating the contest in their backyards. And, therein lies the rub.

  7. Great points, Zach. But, many wrongs don’t make a right. I’m still amazed by Nathan’s total abdication of corporate social responsibility in pursuit of the almighty dollar.

  8. Thanks lunchboy, but I disagree. There are a lot of not-very-bright people out there who simply don’t get it. Promoting the intake of massive amounts of hot dogs in a short period of time is irresponsible.

  9. No argument, Jackie. But, the lighthearted treatment of something so obviously unhealthy is irresponsible. I agree with the warning labels recommendation, BTW (i.e “Eating a copious amount of hot dogs in a short period of time may increase your chances of higher cholesterol, diabetes, clogging of the arteries, obesity and, yes, death. Have a nice day.

  10. It’s a stunt, Steve, to generate simple, effective publicity. People with common sense (I hope a few people out there still have some) wouldn’t consider for a second shoving a full platter of red hots down their gullets. Maybe Nathan’s should take a cue from the advice that comes with alcoholic beverages: “Enjoy our products responsibly”. Then again, looking at American waist lines, that sign should be posted in the common grocery store.

  11. Something I can weigh in on, Rep. A couple of random thoughts for you to chew on:
    Don’t blame Nathan’s for having built an annual PR event that wins national coverage. You, Ed, Joey Chestnut, MSE and everyone else who chimes in on this blog and others would be proud of such an achievement within the industry. Not only that, it gives health agencies and their PR teams great fodder to combat the feeding frenzy.
    To say that Nathan’s should provide warning labels pertaining to health, what is next? Auto manufacturers telling us that their products are terrible for the environment and pollute our air and destroy our natural resources? People already know that hotdogs are bad and should only be eaten in moderation. But, they’re good! People will eat them till the end of time. All of our days are numbered…a few hotdogs ingested or not. People will do anything for a buck and to get on TV…have fun I say.
    Of course, we’re a fat nation and I will not argue that, but did you notice that there were only a few overweight contestants downing the dogs?
    Anyway, parents should be instilling good eating habits, not Nathan – he has those delicious dogs to make and sell. I’m hungry for one in fact.

  12. While I don’t disagree with anything you’ve stated above, I’m not sure it’s fair to point the finger at Nathan’s or the media outlets that support the hotdog eating competition.
    Is this any worse than airing “Cribs” while unemployment rates and homelessness are through the roof? How about airing [insert one of a thousand titles here] while teen pregnancy and STD rates are escalating? UFC promotes fighting, plenty of series promote gun violence, etc.
    Nathan’s competition is just one of a million examples where television is challenging people to use common sense and challenging parents to be parents. Not everyone is up to the challenge but television isn’t going to change.

  13. I don’t think one-off events like this are causing people to be obese. The greater issue is an overall lifestyle that allows kids to watch too much TV, play too many video games and eat too much junk. We have warning labels on cigarettes advising us of the negative health consequences of smoking, we should advocate the same thing for high-calorie, low nutrition foods like “Lunchables” and “Happy Meals.”
    Anyone who has seen the new film “WALL*E” has gotten a glimpse into a scary world we might be facing where obese people float around in cosmic lounge chairs drinking cupcakes with a straw. A sobering depiction for sure.

  14. But, Ed, shouldn’t someone, somewhere along the food chain (pun intended) post some sort of disclaimer? How many impressionable kids are watching this spectacle and re-enacting it in their own neighborhoods? The Nathan’s hot dogs contest flies in the face of every possible corporate social responsibility tenet.

  15. All good and valid points, Repman. Still there’s something disgustingly entertaining about watching these human beings shove that much food into the their mouths in such a short amount of time. Like it or not, it’s often the completely gross spectacles like this that keep people coming back for more.