I Eat, Therefore I Am. The Competitive Artist.

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At Columbia College Chicago, we’re taught that film-making is a collaborative art form. The team makes a project a success, and undue conflict can stifle the creative process. However, they wouldn’t have festivals and awards if we weren’t supposed to be competitive. We have to approach the program with a competitive fire. I recently found a competitive outlet in the extreme sport of…wait for it…competitive eating.

I know your saying, “WTF?” Let me explain. I decided to enter the 10th annual Bacci Jumbo slice pizza eating contest on a whim. Well, not a total whim. First prize was $1,500. I thought, “I like pizza. How hard could it be?”

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To qualify, I had to eat two pieces of pizza in 20 minutes. It doesn’t sound hard, but these things are the size of manhole covers. I breezed through the first piece in 4 minutes, but that second one was rough. I had to channel my inner “Man vs. Food” to finish that one in 12 minutes. Whew! I made it and had one full day to recover for the big event.

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The competition was held at the Bacci Pizzaria on Taylor in Chicago. The rules were simple. Eat as much pizza as you can in 15 minutes. After checking in, I put on my game face. People were playing mind games. One guy walked up to me and said “How long did it take you to qualify? I finished my slices in 7 minutes.” Without batting an eye I shot back, “Not bad, I finished in 6.” That’s called “gamesmanship.”

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Before I could tell more lies, the Rocky theme piped through the house speakers, and “athletes” were told to find a spot outside. Seven triangular pizza boxes were stacked in front of us. Each box had a slice. That’s a foot of pizza. Then I heard, “If you feel sick, leave the table. Don’t throw up on your neighbor.” And then “5-4-3…” Time slowed down. I took a deep breath, stared at that box, and…”2-1-eat!”

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I was in rare form. I downed my first piece in 2 minutes. In one motion I flung the box under the table and opened another. CHOMP! I downed that piece in 3 minutes. Someone to my right gagged and dashed away from the table. I didn’t see it, but I heard it looked like that scene from that Monty Python movie where the fat guy explodes in a restaurant. You know the one I’m talking about. If not, Google “Monty Python movie where the fat guy explodes in a the restaurant.” (See, this blog is interactive.)

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I kept eating…but much slower. I jumped up and down to jostle the dough down my intestines. This was so much harder than I thought. I had to use the water bottle for makeshift saliva to moisten the dough in my mouth. Ewww. With seconds left, I stuffed my face with pizza. I looked like a mutant chipmunk.  My final tally was three pieces and a bite. Actually, for my first competition, I did all right. In fact, I beat six or seven guys in my section of the table. But the winner ate 7 ½ slices. That’s a full 20 inch pizza! Wow.

As I stood hunched over, face deep in a garbage dumpster, I realized that you have to find competition where you can. Take this contest. Looking around, meeting the competitors, and trying something new was worth puking in an alley. Stimulation of competitive juices or gastric juices helps stimulate creativity. It feeds inspiration. Speaking of feeding, I’m going to stick to celery for awhile…and hit the treadmill. Burp.