He's telling me about how there are spots open to amateurs at any of the events sponsored by the International Federation of Competitive Eating. And I'm beginning to think that this face-stuffing jamboree is something I could do.
Then, he starts throwing otherworldly numbers out there that bringing me back to Earth.
Later on, I'll come to the devastating realization that my digital voice recorder failed to record any voices digitally, rendering all of the tremendous and well-developed quotes he gave me useless. It will make me literally sick to my stomach.
Saturday, at Coney Island, the renewal of one of sports' most jaw-tiring spectacles will take place. Over the years, the Nathan's event has grown wildly in popularity, largely in part to larger-than-life eating personalities like Takeru Kobayashi and Joey Chestnut.
Last Independence Day, the two titans each consumed an unreasonable 59 hot dogs in the allotted 10 minutes, forcing a five-dog overtime period in which Chestnut prevailed.
Conti said that although the contest has been shortened from 10 to 12 minutes, it's just causing the eaters to eat that much faster, thereby negating the intended goal of keeping the totals from growing exponentially. He said that although Kobayashi and Chesnut get most of the hype, an off day from each and a career day from Janus could leave him holding that coverted mustard-colored belt.
The laid-back, dredlocked Conti's previous high at this contest is 25, so he understands that he probably won't walk away as the victor. But to hear him tell it, that's not exactly what it's all about. He seems competitive eating as a journey that allows him to travel the country and sit down to eat (an inherent social act) with all types of people. He mentioned that many of the contests on the circuit and tailored specific to local fare, giving it that bit of Twainian down-to-earth nature that is so rare in our fast-paced world.
Conti burst on to the scene by setting the world record for oysters in New Orleans in 2002. It's opened doors all over the place for him.
There's much, much more.
He ate 459 oysters during the taping of "The Late Show" with David Letterman, crushing Letterman's total of three. Crazy Legs has also appeared on The View, Good Morning America, The Today Show, BBC1, CNN, MTV's TRL, Fox Family and Friends, ESPN's Cold Pizza, ESPN Sportscenter, NPR, The Jay Thomas Show, Beef Baloney (Tulsa), and host of other national and local media. He's graced the pages of FHM Magazine, Topic, Sports Illustrated, Penthouse, Reader's Digest, and the New York Post. "Hungry Charles" Hardy and Crazy Legs ate hot dogs on the John McEnroe show almost as fast as the show got cancelled, The Discovery Channel sent Crazy Legs to Alaska to eat reindeer sausage for, "Gutbusters in Alaska". He is featured in the "Tour de Gorge" on HDTV, and was on MTV's "True Life" with Janus.But, he downplays his niche celebrity status, laughing and saying that his stomach is way more famous than the rest of him. He's not too busy to talk about the sport he loves and he does so politely and eloquently. His mouth is noticably absent of food when he speaks. He comes off as a guy, like you or I, who has trained his body and mind to do things that to the layman seem impossible.
And he's enjoying the hell out of the ride, sitting down at life's table and sampling as much as he can.
Hey, wouldn't you?
Nathan's International Hot Dog Eating Contest airs Saturday at 12 p.m. EST on ESPN. Conti also appears with Chicago-based eaters Gravy Brown and Pat "Deep Dish" Bertoletti in "I'm a Major League Eater," airing on July 8. His personal Web site is here, and information about the wide world of competitve eating can be noshed on here.