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Exclusive Q&A with Tim Janus
Many network regulars have emailed inquiries about Eater X’s July 4 performance. CEN had a chance to catch up with Eater X for a little Q&A.
CEN On July 4th you did a personal best in Nathan's HDBs of 34 in 12 minutes. That's a marked increase, how did it make you feel?
X It made me feel swell and swollen, but I didn't feel uncomfortable. I'd have liked for that contest to continue because I felt good and could have eaten much more. I was a little sad when the 12 minutes ended. I had so much adrenaline, and I was so excited to have held my own against the best in the world that day that I didn't want that feeling to end. And I knew that I had surprised everyone. I take great satisfaction in knowing that people counted me out before that contest even began and that I turned around and gave them the finger 34 times in 12 minutes. Next year I'll give them the finger a few more times.
CEN Aside from watching tapes, what do you think allowed you to achieve such a big number?
X I just willed myself that day. My mind is strong, strong like [an] ox, and now I've put the yoke on it, and I'm plowing along. Kobayashi and Crazy Legs and Sonya have been telling me in slightly different words for years that my mind can take me further than my body can. I'm beginning to understand what they mean.
CEN Sonya Thomas -- can you beat her ???
I think some day I will. Sonya's one of the two best eaters in America, and she has been a very good friend and a very generous opponent to me. She's encouraged me every step of the way even when I haven't felt that I deserved it, and I always enjoy talking to her and goofing around with her before a contest. I think Sonya will always beat me more often than I beat her, but I do believe there's a good chance that I'll beat her once or twice in 2007. But it's gonna take the right foods and the right contest. It's not gonna happen in a quick contest or with a debris food or with a food that's a pain in the ass to chew and swallow. I don't like those contests, and neither does she, although she's definitely much better at them than I am. Like her, I like the long game, and if I'm gonna beat her, I'd like to beat her at that. It'd mean more to me to beat her at her game.
CEN Why do you think Chip Simpson didn't match his best of 38 HDBs?
I have no idea what happened to Chip, but he still did great! He ate 33 hot dogs. Only five people in the world can say they've ever eaten as many at Coney Island.
I have a hard time understanding the deviations in the performances of other eaters. I've always believed that the standard deviation of hot dogs, when negative, is about 5%. So given Chip's official high of 38, I wouldn't have expected him to eat fewer than 36.
My standard deviation for any food that is prepared to consistent standards at different venues (hamburgers and hot dogs but not, for example, chicken wings) is always a positive number. I pride myself on having never regressed.
CEN How do you explain a loss in Shoo Fly Pie to Shoudt, when Shoudt did 4
fewer HDBs than you on the 4th? Is Shoo Fly Pie harder than HDBs?
X My strength as an eater has never been the chewing and swallowing game. It's always been tapping into that part of my head that just isn't right. An 8-minute contest, especially with a thick, onerous food doesn't allow me the time to tap into my strength. Even hot dogs truly don't, but they come closer to doing so than Shoo Fly Pie does. I'd love to really go the distance some day---an hour maybe with quick foods, something that truly engages a mind-over-matter determination.
I don't know what the prevailing opinion is among eaters and fans, but as a fan once and as a competitor now I've always placed a higher value on the contests that make you struggle to soldier on. I like the expressions on the faces of the other competitors. I like the humor and the drama in their struggles. And I like that I have to look inward in those moments when I'm overcome too. I think they make me more of a man. Sprints are a little too mindless for me.
CEN What do you think of the new kid, Seaver Miller?
X Seaver's a nice guy. But I have a hard time evaluating new talent because an eater's debut doesn't mean what it once did. A lot of new folks are coming into these contests having already seen what they're all about. When I started, which in an evolutionary sense seems much longer ago than it actually was, the mystery of competitive eating overwhelmed first-time competitors. At my first contest, I was smelling the roses, enjoying the scene, and eating calmly, as if eating calmly but steadily for 12 minutes would somehow get the job done. There was a lot to learn back then, and it showed. But now, with the publicity competitive eating has received, a lot of that learning can be done at home before an eater gets his feet wet.
CEN What was your favorite moment on July 4th?
X I loved the contest. I had my friends in the front row in front of me, and a few minutes into the contest, I saw that they didn't know how many hot dogs I'd eaten. So I told my judge, I said, "Hey. Turn around. Show them my counter. Show them what I've done." And everytime he'd show them what I'd done, they'd get excited and cheer for me.
And then when the contest ended, and I looked around and saw who I'd beaten, I tapped Pat Bertoletti on the shoulder with my hand, and then we punched each other's fists congratulations, because we were happy for each other for what we'd done.
And then I made eye contact with my dad, who was sitting in the press box with my mom and my grandma, and he asked me how many I'd eaten. And I flashed the number "34" at him with my fingers, and he thought I was saying "24" because even though I had known what I could do, he hadn't thought that I could do it.
And then I looked at Rich Shea, who was sitting up in the broadcast booth to my left, and I said, "Hey! 34!" because I knew that he hadn't expected it from me either.
Those four moments, those were my favorite moments.
CEN How do you see the Johnsonville Brat Contest breaking down?
X It's not gonna be good for me. It's a swallowing contest. If you can swallow big pieces of meat without chewing them, you're in luck. But I can't do that. I have to chew too much.
As for the others, I'm out of the business of making predictions.