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THE WRITING ON (AND OFF) THE WALL EAT YOUR HEART OUT, AMERICA.

Byline: TOM HOFFARTH

News you don't really need to know, but knowing it could only make you sound slightly smarter after your 15th Pabst Blue Ribbon while floating face-down on your neighbor's raft at Tuesday's Fourth of July pool party:

What happened: Joey ``Jaws'' Chestnut, the 6-foot-1, 230- pound nut from San Jose who two months ago set a U.S. record by downing 50 hot dogs in 12 minutes at the LasVegas qualifier, will carry all of America's humiliating hopes and delusional dreams when he goes jaw-to-jaw against five-time defending champion Takeru Kobayashi at the July 4 Nathan's Coney Island hot-dog-eating competition.

``Choking is not my worry,'' Chestnut said during a training run. ``I've got a pretty strong throat.''

What's the spin: As we continue to mourn the loss of Thomas Arthur, the man who created the 10-inch Dodger Dog that was actually modeled after the Coney Island foot-longs, how is it that these ``Man Bites Dog'' headlines continues to punch us in the gut? Especially when it's a skinny little gut like Kobayashi's that challenges our rightful spot on the planet.

Perhaps the best primer for this annual event, which ESPN will again cover live (9 a.m.) sandwiched between Wimbledon and the World Cup, is to slowly digest Jason Fagone's new book, ``Horsemen of the Esophagus: Competitive Eating and the Big Fat American Dream'' ($24, Crown Publishers, 302 pages).

It starts with this quote from Hank Hill from a 2002 episode of the TV show ``King of the Hill'' called ``The Fat and the Furious,'' which sums up how our trans-fatted priorities quickly get skewed up.

``Wait a minute, America isn't the hot-dog champion? Well, how could you let that happen? This whole nation is stuffing its face! Can't one of us do it at record speed?''

Fagone's correct premise is that: ``if anti-American zealots anywhere in the world wanted to perform a minstrel show of our culture, this is what they'd come up with. Competitive eating was a symbolic hairball coughed up by the American id. It was meaningful like a tumor is meaningful.''

What continues to fuel this feeding frenzy is that ESPN has been sucked into the buffet of the International Federation of Competitive Eating's long-range plan of pseudo-sports domination.

As veteran pie-hole shover Ed ``Cookie'' Jarvis tells Fagone: ``Let's face it. We're on ESPN. If that's not professional sports, I don't know what is.''

So a glutton for punishment like Chestnut -- the current world record holder in devouring pork ribs (5 1/2 pounds in 12 minutes last July), waffles (18 1/2 in 10minutes in September) and buffalo wings (173 at Wing Bowl XIV in Philadelphia in February) -- has given American TV viewers another pop culture icon to temporarily divert their attention from global warming and other such trivial matters.

By the way, at the end of that aforementioned ``King of the Hill'' episode, Hank consoles Bill after his embarrassing performance in the dog-stuffing contest.

``You know, Bill, America doesn't need to win every dang thing to be great. We've got the Constitution, two George Bushes, great toilets -- hell, we've played golf on the moon. I guess we can let Laos have a stupid wiener contest, can't we?''

Which also reinforces the idea that we're the undisputed champs at rationalizing anything.

What happened: The July issue of Maxim magazine reveals the winners of a contest in which readers were asked to submit their best fruity mixed alcoholic cocktail concoction.

One that finished runner-up to the winner is called the John Daly. Just take the classic Arnold Palmer -- a mix of half lemonade and half ice tea -- and stir in two ounces of Stoli Citrus.

What's the spin: We'll set the odds at 1 to 3 that the next time Daly's Winnebago gets pulled over somewhere on Interstate 15 heading out of Vegas, our good ol' boy will be so far into his sixth same-named drink that'll he offer one up to the state trooper after autographing the guy's Mickelson- esque breasts with a Sharpie.

What happened: Women's tennis vixen Maria Sharapova admitted to the media during the first week at Wimbledon that she's secretly an avid stamp collector.

``Everyone's calling me a dork now,'' the 19-year-old 2004 champ admitted. ``It's just a hobby. ... Let's get off this subject because I'm going to be an absolute geek tomorrow.''

What's the spin: So what is it, a dork or a geek? Maybe Ms.Maria can discuss those nuances with her lickety-spit peers at her next meeting of Philatelists Anonymous.

CAPTION(S):

4 photos, 2 boxes

Photo:

(1) Jason Fagone's new 302-page book examines the phenomenon of competitive eating.

(2) JOE MAUER

(3) JORDAN FARMAR

(4) BRETT MYERS

Box:

(1) FANTASY BASEBALL

- Bryan Fowler

(2) sunday punch
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Copyright 2006, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 2, 2006
Words:792
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