Should they be considered athletes?

The idea that competitive eaters are athletes is as well accepted as the idea that hot dogs are healthy food.

Take Eric “Badlands” Booker, one of the most popular figures in the history of the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. He is 6-5 and weighs 420 pounds.

“I have a long way to go to be like an athlete like a LeBron James in basketball or a Tom Brady in football” said Booker, 53. “But I know what I have to do to stay strong, to stay competitive in competitive eating .”

Booker is a throwback to the bygone days, when massive men bellied up to Nathan’s long table on Coney Island in New York and the hot dog eating commenced. This year the competitors will include a former college basketball player, a former college soccer player, a former competitive bodybuilder, a professional wrestler and a host of competitors who look more fit than fat.

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