The Optic, a Flashback

{{With the Las Vegas Qualifier just an hour or so away, MLE wanted to look back at this story from December 2005}}


For competitive eaters, flying debris entering the eye – a bit of buffalo wing, a granule of garlic salt, or the errant fragment of ground beef – can mean the difference between a win and a loss.

Goggles protect the eyes from hazards such as wind and water, and they're also very effective in deflecting debris during an eating contest. As such they were once quite popular within the competitive eating community. Stan Libnitz wore aviator goggles to the 1933 Nathan’s Hot Dog Championship and they fast became a common accessory for competitive eaters of that era.

Trends, by definition, come and go and the use of goggles has been almost non-existent of late. While Crazy Legs Conti wore a swim mask in the Popcorn Sarcophogus, the only gurigitator to wear goggles in recent competition has been The Optic, Ron Koch.

The Optic wore a pair of swim goggles to a few competitions in the summer of 2005. He is pictured here at the Nathan’s July 4th Event where he delivered an impressive performance. He has not worn goggles in recent contests and, while there is no conclusive evidence that food has entered Koch’s eyes, many believe the lack of protective eyewear may have cost him some close battles.

One thing is for sure: no one knows better than Koch that competitive eating is trench warfare and having a fraction of food enter the eye during a contest can be disastrous.

While not directly related, it is rumored that Brian Subich is considering wearing a miner’s ‘bug’ light on his head while competing in 2006. Plate illumination is known to help eaters identify every morsel of foodstuff, which is critical in the debris category. But is this move more a tribute to the great men who, for decades, have mined coal in Subich’s home state of Pennsylvania?