MLE

 

Davekos, Boston You're His Home
5/20/2011

Davekos, Boston You're His Home
By Newbear Lesniewski

Before getting on the horn with one of Boston’s favorite sons, prep work included my 27th screening of “Good Will Hunting”. A brush-up on Harvard Yard accents and Southie culture and whatnot.

I’m kidding. Sort of.

“Pretty Boy” Pete Davekos’ assessment of the film’s quirkiness was no joke.

“That accent is atrocious - that’s not my accent. But ‘The Fighter’ was awesome! It’s funny, though, because basically, you’re going to start talking like whoever you’re around after spending enough time with them,” he said.

Pete knows Boston. Loves Boston. New Orleans is his favorite city for weekends and Chicago’s his clear-cut No. 2 for everything from culture to food. But New England is home.

Suburban youth. St. John’s Prep for school. From the North Shore to those rough-hewn neighborhoods in the opposite direction, Pete traces his affinity for the city around a web of friendship.

“I was able to meet so many great people growing up - so many different kinds of people - with their own experiences. We’re a prideful people, blue collar with a white collar exterior,” he said.

Meeting people is one thing. Just being in the stands, on the train or in a bar elbow-to-elbow with your fellow man is an experience in itself. But Pete’s inherent gift of gab turned many of those chance encounters into lifelong relationships.

“I’ve always been witty, able to come up with a one-liner. I was class president in high school - just always loved being around people,” he said.

So of course the gregarious young man would grow up to become a sales manager. Forming his 9-to-5 team manifests as a cubicle extension of family.

“Growing up Greek, I’ve always had a huge sense of family, loyalty and pride. We’ve got doctors and teachers and business owners (in my family), and it’s because we’re hard workers who want to be the best at whatever it is we do. But we’re absolutely not above busting each other’s balls,” he said.

Consider marriage par for the course.

“My wife, Mia, she’s 100 percent Italian, so we’re talk-talk-talk all the time. Making people laugh, entertaining them, producing some level of shock value in a regular conversation, that’s what I love to do,” he said.

Consider: Mia was on “Survivor”. She’s famous for starving; he’s famous for eating.

And that’s exactly what Pete set out to do with the initial idea for his competitive eating alter ego.

“I didn’t want to walk out as just ‘Pete’ at my first contest. Major League Eating is real eating - it’s absolutely a sport, with rules and judges and winners and losers - but it’s got that supersize wrestling feel, too. You’ve got personas like ‘Badlands’ Booker and ‘Crazy Legs’ Conti. So I wanted to introduce ‘The Termin-Eater’ to the world,” he said.

Even with a background in natural bodybuilding - and that obvious movies-muscle-man-crush on Schwarzenegger - “Pretty Boy” doesn’t stem from Pete’s organic good looks and charm.

When MLE’s own Rich Shea put him in front of the camera for the very first time, Pete winked. Factor in some good-natured teasing around Pete’s aversion to messy eating, and his current moniker was too good for Rich to pass up.

“The strictness that comes with dieting down for a show in bodybuilding basically translates directly into the cravings that allow me to eat so much food. Even though I’m no longer a bodybuilder, I can still tap into that zone on-stage,” he said.

It’s that zone - and that stage - that brings out the eating machine in Pete.

“Let’s be honest: what we do is an oddity. It’s funny. But I don’t care if you’re a vegetarian or you only eat one bowl of cereal at a time - everyone eats. So to see us do it for eight, nine, ten minutes straight - knowing that we don’t count things in units but in pounds or gallons - it’s almost like a car accident. You just have to look,” he said.

And people like to look at winners - no matter how odd, comical or messy.

“I want to be the person in that spotlight - and the only way to get there is to win. Winning at competitive eating feels no different than playing hockey or baseball. When I step on that stage at Nathan’s and there’s 40,000 people cheering my name and yelling and screaming? There’s no better high than those goosebumps. That’s our Super Bowl - and it brings a tear to my eye every single time,” he said.

Pete has an addictive personality. He always promises himself that when he tries something, he’s just going to do it for a little bit. But like the doctors, teachers and business owners dotting his family tree, he’s almost always immediately overcome by some sense of be-the-best duty.

As a 230 lb. 13-year old, he decided to transform his body before heading off to prep school. Enter that bodybuilding phase, where he worked his way to the top of the ranks, once taking 2nd place - to future WWE Champion John Cena.

The transition to college came with a choice: bench presses or books. Pete double-majored in pre-med and psych - to the tune of a 3.95.

Going pro in sales quickly turned into quarterly records - while eating his way to the world’s Top 15 in his spare time.

Consider him a case study in addictive achievement - a linear correlation between effort and success. Pete could be his own life theorem, should he ever decide to revisit the clinical research he once conducted at Brown.

So when “Pretty Boy” loses...

“I’ve never lost - knock on wood - when it’s all on the line. But when I have lost, it sucks. I can’t even articulate further. Except to say that it feels like someone punched me in the stomach,” he said.

Maybe it’s that familial pride that picks up the pieces. And maybe it’s just his love affair with gluttony. But when it comes to competitive eating, Pete possesses Zen-like perspective.

“I’m the only person up there, so I’m the only one to blame. All that means is I can improve. If someone else wins, I know I have to do better. I believe that everyone’s built the same - it comes down to who works harder,” he said.

This is Pete’s fifth year - and he’s off to the best start of his eating career. He credits a renewed focus, the pendulum swinging heavily from all-fun-all-the-time to decidedly serious.

“I realized that I’m representing all of New England - not just Boston. That’s a lot of weight to carry on my shoulders - not just in my stomach,” he said.

Adding a level to the next event? It’s Boston vs. New York.

“It’s such a great rivalry because it’s in every sport - really, everything about the two cities. Proximity. Attitude. Classy vs. classless. Clean fighting vs. dirty fighting. The underdog versus the ‘Evil Empire’ - it’s all there,” he said.

Second helping: the event takes place at Showcase Cinema Plaza at Patriot Place, in the shadow of the House that Bruschi Built and the gentle breeze wafting in from Tom Brady’s championship locks.

“My wife’s in love with Tom Brady - everyone is. I half-joke that I’m the best-looking guy in New England, but I’ll give him the tie for first. He’s the best QB in the NFL and I’m in his house. I’m sure I’ll feel that power surge flowing through my veins at the eight-minute mark, the same as him in the two-minute drill,” he said.

Just dessert: at last year’s Foxborough qualifier, “Badlands” took “Pretty Boy” out - sending him gorging through the Hartford qualifier just to get back to Nathan’s.

“Look: ‘Badlands’ Booker is a mountain of a man. And he’s not just a veteran - he’s going into the Hall of Fame. But I don’t believe he’ll be qualifying by beating me. This competition is mine to win,” he said.