2. How Many Chips Can One Man Eat?
If "The Lord of the Rings" saga taught us anything, it's that heroes come in all sizes, and the sport of competitive eating is no different. The reigning chicken wing champ is a petite, 105-pound woman from Alexandria, Va. Sonia "The Black Widow" Thomas scarfed down 161 wings (that's 5 pounds of deep-fried chicken) in 12 minutes.
I expected similar, jaw-dropping achievements when I checked with the International Federation of Competitive Eating for excellence in chip consumption. This group monitors the achievement of gastric gladiators who race in everything from corn dogs and dumplings to doughnuts, butter and even cow brains.
The cow brain-eating champ is Takeru Kobayashi, the same diminutive Japanese man who seems to win the Coney Island hot dog-eating contest every Fourth of July. Kobayashi has eaten 53½ hot dogs in 12 minutes and 17.8 pounds of cow brains in 15 minutes.
To my surprise, however, the IFOCE has no record on the potato chip, the snack food most Americans, especially sports fans, eat in wild excess.
When I voiced my surprise, IFOCE official Richard Shea offered to set up a benchmarking event, with reigning buffet champ Jason "Crazy Legs" Conti helping to establish a Super Bowl standard for chip-eating excellence.
While the 210-pound, 33-year-old New Yorker had never raced in potato chips, he had relevant experience: At last year's Tribeca Film Festival, Conti submerged himself in an 8-foot-high glass tank filled with popcorn. Wearing a bathing suit and scuba mask, Conti ate his way out, like a hungry Houdini.
On Monday, with crumpled Lay's and Pringles in his goatee, Crazy Legs proved that one man could devour just over a pound of chips in four furious minutes.
In the same time period, sitting side by side with Conti, I ate enough to fill nearly 6½ single-serving bags of Lays (each bag is 6.4 ounces). Perhaps that's good enough to make myself sick and my girlfriend reconsider our future together. Nevertheless, I was humbled before the greatness of a champion.
Ed "Cookie" Jarvis, another top-ranked IFOCE eater, advises football fans not to be shy around the buffet.
"The big question on a buffet line is always, 'Do I take multiple plates?' or 'Do I go up multiple times?'" says Jarvis.
"I always say, take two or three plates. Get it all in front of you and enjoy the game," he says. "If you're among friends, why hide who you are?"
The 409-pound real estate broker from New York's Long Island has impeccable eating credentials (21 cannoli in six minutes, 91 Chinese dumplings in eight minutes, 1 gallon 9 ounces of vanilla ice cream in 12 minutes).
Even more impressive: While pigging out at a Super Bowl party six years ago, Jarvis met his wife. "She knew exactly who I was when she saw me at the buffet that day," he says. "These things are important to a competitive eater."
3. Buffet Etiquette: Is it OK to Double-Dip?
Like all burning ethical dilemmas, the question of double-dipping a chip is still unresolved, and, apparently, it's something of a gender issue, with women more likely to consider it a Super Bowl party faux pas.
You may consider it normal chip-eating procedure to scoop from the dip bowl multiple times with the same chip. If so, you're not alone -- 38 percent of Americans admit to double dipping, according to a November 2004 poll of 1,500 adults conducted by Impulse Research.