Truly, it took me a while to come to terms with the fact that I was professional competitive eater. It happened somewhere around year two, as i sat in my dining room shoveling practice-dogs into my throat to improve technique. But as my own harshest critic, I never really felt that I was big-league. I was in shock when I beat Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas in Indian Tacos down in Atmore, AL. I was floored when I beat Joey Chestnut in Ribs in Chicago, IL (and to this day, I make preface-style excuses for my victory). And I questioned the results when I beat Miki Sudo in wings in Salisbury, MD. I went into every contest with anxiety and a fear I'd come in last, knowing I was fighting to maintain my Major League Eating rank of #9 in the world.
I lived as if I was an amateur disguising myself as a pro for three years, and I was terrified of being found out. Hence, the "cardboard shell" - just kidding, but it sounded good, right?
But my mentality changed recently - in May of 2014 - when I received a phone call from Sam Barclay of Major League Eating. "I'm sure you're aware that in the past, we've sent Eaters overseas to eat for the troops on Navy Entertainment Tours. We're bringing that back in August. Would you like to go?"
I was in shock. "Um, yes!"
"It is likely that it would overlap with the Day Lee Foods World Gyoza Eating Championship. Is that ok?"
I love that contest. But this is the chance of a lifetime "YES! Definitely!"
When I was told that this trip covered all expenses, I went into shock all over again. Wait, what? What is happening? This can't be real. What is going on? Why me? ..That was the real question.
It made sense that Major League Eating wanted to send professional eaters overseas to compete in Pro-Am contests, engaging and entertaining the hardworking men and women who sacrifice everything for our country. They've been sending eaters for years, to countries all over the world, and have been really well-received. What didn't make sense, was that they were inviting ME.
That's when I realized it. I'm a top-ten ranked competitive eater. I've beaten everyone ranked ahead of me at least once - except boy-wonder Matt Stonie. And I'm a pretty solid eater, for the most part placing where I expect I will in various contests. Yeah, I have my off-days sometimes, placing lower than I'd like at times - but all professional athletes have had off-days where they haven't performed their best. So today, I'm going to take this news and realize that I need to stop being down on myself for these slip ups, for they do not define me. I'm the number 9 ranked Major League Eater in the world right now, and I should be proud of that.
* This article was written on August 20, and is back-dated for sequencing purposes.