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Clear Eyes, Full Plates, Can't Puke: Behind the Scenes of Competitive Eating

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In recent years, the "sport" of competitive eating has expanded from a Coney Island freak show into an international, well, freak show. Jon Ronson hit the contest trail with some of the circuit's deepest stomachs—men who devour unholy amounts of chicken wings in minutes flat; women who make stupid money mowing down quesadillas—and returned with a tale that answers the only question that really matters: Why?

Oh man...

"It's lucky you're not flying home until tomorrow," I say. He'd told me earlier that he always gives himself a day before flying, because it would be a nightmare if the seat-belt sign were to go on just as the inevitable evacuation began to occur.

"Describe how you're feeling with twenty corned-beef sandwiches inside you," I ask.

"I'm used to it," he says. "But...pain..."

He's speaking in fractured sentences, with great difficulty. It seems cruel for me to continue the interview. I congratulate him once again. "Hopefully I'll feel okay," he says, "in four or five hours."

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