Alex Perez has been training. For the past two or three months he's been hitting up all-you-can-eat buffets and eating till he felt sick. For the past 24 hours "The Moose" has been fasting. I thought about asking him if he ever ate those little sponge animals that swell to 40 times their size in water but then I didn't want to make the joke because Moose was very serious. "I'm going to go get my bandana," he said, pushing his way through the crowd.
The Libertine held its fourth annual Corn Dog Smackdown yesterday, and the place was packed. Rubberneckers drank beer and tossed yellow balls at a dunking booth out front while waiting for the event to begin. About 15 contestants entered the competition, most convivial, and some very serious about the mission before them. They assumed alter egos like "The Masked Man" and "Miller Time" and adorned their faces in war paint of ketchup and mustard. They drank copious amount of alcohol. One said he ate a steak sandwich earlier that day. And then the countdown began.
When the starting buzzer signaled showtime and the air filled with the smell of sweet corn batter and fat, they ate corn dogs with with gluttonous enthusiasm. I watched in horror as their faces took on a sheen and then broke out in beads of perspiration. I'm a food critic; I live my days in a constant state of fullness. What these drunk, amateur competitive eaters indulged in for sport was my very definition of hell.
Some seemed to enjoy themselves, cautiously snacking away as sticks caked with the remnants of fried cornbread piled up before them. Others were more systematic. They stripped the bread from each dog, soaking it in a little water like the pros do when eating scores of hot dogs in the Nathan's sponsored competition. But this wasn't an officially sanctioned professional eating event. And it seemed a passionate love of corn dog eating trumped training and technique.
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In the end, "Drunk Guy" took home the brass knuckle trophy, a $100 bar tab, and glory. His only technique was inebriated dancing. He literally bounced as he ate, urging his swelling payload deeper into his center. "The Moose" sat defeated, a large pile of half eaten carnival food spread out before him as a testament to his failure, before he redeemed himself in a tequila shoot-off that earned him third place.