In preparation for my Nathan's hot dog qualifier at the Plant City, Florida strawberry festival, I have been listening to a lot of Frank Stallone music. Not just the hits from the 1980s films "Staying Alive" and "Over the Top" but his new stuff like "Carry On" from the film "Reach Me." With lyrics like, "It's got to have feelings. It's got to have meaning. Because I need a reason to carry on," Frank could just as well be singing about eating hot dogs competitively for 10 minutes.
I am a film junkie, but "Saturday Night Fever" is so much better than, "Staying Alive" and in the arm pressing 80s genre I much prefer "PK and the Kid" over "Over the Top." Granted, I was one of the few individuals who thought that the world needed two competitive arm-wrestling movies and time has not dampened my opinion. My sport, Major League Eating, is known for strength in the dunking forearm versus the bulging biceps from professional arm-wrestling. In subculture sports -- beer pong, cup-stacking, and the rock-paper-scissors championships -- strong forearms are highly valued. This is also true of chronic masturbaters, but it's more difficult to turn pro in pornography so I stick with competitive eating.
I have written about past Nathan's qualifiers for the Huffington Post -- all losing efforts as I have been absent from the final table on July 4th the previous two years. The reason for hot dog prelims is because one must win one of the Nathan's qualifiers to gain a spot at the final table - paying their travel and accommodations to various US cities, race tracks, or fruit festivals. Besides earning that table spot, one gets an expensed trip to Coney Island, a per diem, and some free shirts and frisbees. The top five get prize money, but for the table enders like myself, we settle for some ESPN exposure, cheap drinks at Ruby's on the Boardwalk, and the occasional groupie. I'm not in for the money nor the free hot dogs (although I think that Nathan's garlicky snap is the best weiner around or to quote Frank Stallone, "I do believe in you after all we have been through.") I am a Major League Eater for the journey.
To compete in the Nathan's International Hot Dog Championship is a vision quest (minus Mathew Modine - although he is invited to the after party at Professor Thom's - Modine the password is, "swordfish." and you are a plus three). For me, it's the warrior's journey in "Il Topo" or something out of a Hunter S. Thompson story - when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro-eater. It's Rutger Hauer's Roy Batty's soliloquy if he was full at an all-you-can-eat buffet - "I've eaten things you people wouldn't believe... shrimp toasts on fire behind the sneeze guard of Orion Diner. I've quaffed soup dumpling c-beams in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate Restaurant. All those... food items... will be digested in time, like snow-cones... in... rain. Time... to diet..." Anyway, it is not exactly clear why one becomes a competitive eater, but there is one Last Supper each summer at the corner of Stillwell and Surf at high noon (or three o'clock if we get bumped by Wimbledon coverage.)
Perhaps Frank Stallone has been singing for his supper all along.
Is his "Bad Nite" about a poor hot dog outing? ("I see the clock ticking time. What I want I can't find. I've been waiting for so long...") Perhaps his "Fly Together" is sung from the viewpoint of the frankfurt - "Hold me close, it's cold in here...I need you so much," and something about not touching the ground which is a disqualification or a sizable deduction so Frank's musical hot dog is correct on that account. It is possible that every Frank Stallone song has been about competitive eating and he is waiting for his brother Sly to star in a competitive eating movie to reveal this elusive truth (Hollywood pitch - It's "Rocky 3" meets "Rocky 4" but with more cheesesteaks) I will let you decide as here are the lyrics verbatim (except for the part where I replaced, "Darlin'" with "some hot dog and buns") to Frank Stallone's greatest anthem, "Far from Over."
"This is the end
You made your choice and now my chance is over
I thought I was in
You put me down and say I'm goin' nowhere
Save me [some hot dog and buns]
I am down but I am far from over
Give me somethin'
I need it all 'cause I am runnin' over
Back in the race, I'm movin' in 'cause I am getting closer
I'm diggin' in
I want it more than anything I've wanted
I am down but I am far from over"
It's Nathan's Hot Dog Qualifying season and it time to cue up that walkman and crank that cassette. Hang the banner, set the table, and start the clock. It's ten minutes of gurgitating glory and digestive defeat. Plant City is going to be a bun buzzer beater, a maelstrom of meat, all out weiner war...that's right sports and music fans - I may be down. I may have been out, but like Frank Stallone, I am far from over.
Crazy Legs Conti endorses Frank Stallone's Official Youtube Page as one, "To watch after those annoying ads."
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