Everybody's Good at Something
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I was recently introduced to a new sport — one that I never knew existed. I was flipping channels one day, and there it was, on ESPN2: competitive eating.

No kidding.

At first, I was ashamed of ESPN. I wondered what could have possibly brought the sporting world to this new low. When ESPN started broadcasting poker tournaments and chess matches, I was a bit apprehensive. Isn’t it bad enough that they broadcast professional bowling? I asked myself. And now competitive eating? What could possibly be next?

But then I started to reconsider. I watched as several obese men, a scrawny guy who I can only imagine was a homeless man trying to get a good meal, and several very serious Japanese competitors tried to shove as many hotdogs as possible into their mouths (and keep them down) in twelve minutes. They shoved two in at a time. They dunked the buns in glasses filled with some sort of liquid to make them soggy. They did little dances to help themselves digest.

Meanwhile, the announcers tried to remain straight-faced while discussing the dedication and year-round training that goes into the sport. They compared the competition’s leader to Michael Jordan and all the other sports greats. (All the while wishing that they hadn’t gotten drunk at the company Christmas party and hit on the boss’s wife — if they’d only stayed away from the punch, they could be announcing real sports…like bowling.)

It was then that I realized that ESPN was doing a great thing by celebrating this often-overlooked sport and its hard-working athletes. It reminded me of seventh grade, when we were all forced to participate in intramural sports at school. Some people always looked forward to intramurals, but not me. I was never especially athletic. My long legs made me rather awkward, so I could never really run — which eliminated most sports for me. But my school had gangly kids like me in mind when they decided to offer intramural tetherball. I could play tetherball. I would have won the finals, too, if my opponent hadn’t cheated when the ref wasn’t looking. But I took home that second place ribbon and displayed it with pride — as, I assume, did the winners of the table tennis competition and the euchre competition. And that made athletically awkward nerds like me feel athletic for once in our lives. We, the winners of the table tennis, euchre, and tetherball competitions, had won a sporting event. We were jocks.

For a few days in there, our bitterness toward the school’s real jocks faded, and we ignored the fact that the majority of our school’s extracurricular cash went into athletic programs instead of academic programs. We didn’t care.

And that’s what ESPN is doing. They’re showing that everyone is good at something. Sure, those obese men may never be able to slam-dunk a basketball, but they sure can consume plates of crawfish! And that puny little homeless man may never win an Ironman triathlon, but you’d be amazed by the vast amounts of spaghetti he can shovel down his gullet. And those Japanese guys may not be Olympic speed skaters, but boy, can those guys digest!

So thank you, ESPN! Thank you for making the nobodies feel special. Thank you for covering questionable athletic events and making their competitors feel like super stars! And keep ‘em coming!

I look forward to watching UNO tournaments and word search competitions and scarf-knitting championships and gardening matches and beer guzzling battles and extreme dusting competitions in the comfort of my own living room for years to come. Someday, salaries for these athletes will eventually catch up with those of, say, professional baseball players. And we can only hope that the Olympic committee will eventually follow ESPN’s lead. Because we, the couch potatoes and scrawny guys and gangly girls and wimpy nerds of the world, are all good at something. And we deserve a chance to be professional athletes, just like everyone else. We deserve sparkly gold championship belts and huge trophies to grace our mantles and shiny gold medals to wear around our necks, too.

Personally, I look forward to joining the competitive TV watching circuit in the fall — and I have every intention of bringing home the coveted championship La-Z-Boy.

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