The Sell-out-ification of a Competitive Eater
Stardom impacts different people in different ways. Manute Bol left humble beginnings to make millions in the NBA. Since retiring from the hardwood he has donated a fortune and worked tirelessly to help Sudanese refugees. Jenny Lopez, once a regular neighborhood kid from the Bronx, got a lucky break as a Fly Girl and has since refused to go north of the Four Seasons on 57th Street.
In pro eating there have been more Manutes than J'Los. Perhaps the eaters learned their lesson in the 90s when Ed Krachie cockily dismissed the diminutive Hirofumi Nakajima. During the famous head to head match Krachie read a tabloid. The Maspeth native lost that event badly to the Japanese upstart and never regained his stature in a sport he helped define.
One of the most down to earth eaters of our time has clearly been Crazy Legs Conti. He came onto the scene in 2001 and enjoyed a quick rise in the sport. Despite appearances on Discovery, Letterman and ESPN, the dread locked pastafarian was always willing to spend time with lesser-known eaters. But some say Conti's attitude is changing and changing rapidly.
“During the St. Patrick's Day ChowDown, Conti yelled from the booth for a production assistant to get him bottled water," said one ChowDown participant who spoke on condition of anonymity. “The kid brought him a water really quickly but Conti freaked out about it being 'pedestrian' and things didn’t settle down until the kid produced a Volvic water, apparently Conti's preferred brand.”
Whether the diva-like water incident is telltale or not, many believe that Crazy Legs has exhibited a few quirks more likely to come from Hollywood stars like Ryan Philippe and Simon Cowell than a down-to-earth buffet buster.
Since his Spike appearance, things have advanced. Crazy Legs was seen in a recent Gawker post sipping champagne and air-kissing Dayssi Olarte de Kanavos, the Bogota-born Upper East Side socialite. He is also now a big fan of graffiti, throwing terms like 'bombing,' 'writer,' and 'tag' around with abandon.
But the sell-out moment that has really gotten the competitive eating community buzzing was Conti’s recent appearance on CNBC's ultra-conservative financial show, “Fast Money.” It wasn’t the fact that he appeared on the show that was so shocking, but what he was wearing. Crazy Legs Conti was wearing pants.
“I was agog, confused, even a little depressed,” said Ryan Nerz, a noted MLE authority. “Crazy Legs never wears pants. He wears shorts in the dead of winter. I thought the shorts were supposed to be a symbol that he's not pretentious and won't bow down to the pressures of a homogenous society. Now I’m beginning to wonder if they weren’t a symbol at all, just…you know…shorts.”
What Mr. Nerz failed to mention was the designer-water-sipping, one-time oyster champ of the East Village was not only wearing pants, he was wearing Seven for All Mankind. Last we checked, this brand of jeans retailed at Barney's New York for well over $200 a pair.
If this grossly uncharacteristic behavior is any indication, Crazy Legs Conti may be the first victim of the gentrification of competitive eating. We never thought we’d see the day that J. Lo would refuse to visit her old pals up in the Boogie Down, or that Bob Dylan would appear in a Victoria’s Secret ad, and we never thought we’d see Crazy Legs Conti wearing a pair of closely contoured French pants. Is it a sad, perplexing day for the competitive eating community or is one eater's affection for make-up not enough to spoil the lot? Only time will tell.