I’ve always known my son, Jakob, was like his old man in a lot of ways. People tell me he’s the spitting image of me physically and I tend to agree — except he has a lot more hair than I do.
We both like sports, football especially. And we both like to eat. A little too much, probably.
Jakob, who’s 13, proved the other night he’s quite good at the latter, too.
I was tasked with covering the Carter County Fair in Grayson, and decided it would be fun to take Jakob and his big sister, Caitlin, along so we could spend some family time together.
As we walked through the gates of the fairgrounds, we were approached a by a couple of employees of the Grayson location of a national pizza chain. They asked us if we’d be interested in entering the pizza-eating contest scheduled to take place later in the evening.
Seeing as how I was on the clock, I declined. Caitlin did as well, since she recently swore off eating meat and was concerned the pizzas would have sausage, pepperoni, or perhaps both, on them.
Jakob, however, was game. He took the notepad proffered by one of the employees and scrawled his name on it.
The kids rode rides and I did some work while we waited for time for the contest to roll around. When I saw the employees trundling several stacks of pizza boxes over to the main stage area, I texted Caitlin and told her she needed to get Jakob over there.
As it turned out, Jakob was one of 14 contestants in the event. Doc Gibson, the MC, laid out the rules. Each participant would have one large pizza — plain cheese, as it turned out, so Caitlin could have entered after all — placed before him or her. There would be a 10-minute time limit. Whoever ate all his or her pizza first would be the winner. There would also be a runner-up prize. And contestants would have to consume every morsel of their pizzas, including the crusts.
Gibson gave the “go” signal, and the contestants, Jakob included, threw open their pizza boxes and started grabbing slices and shoving into their mouths with reckless abandon.
Jakob got off to a fairly quick start, but I could tell he was going to need a little coaching, so, after he’d gotten the first slice down, I told him he might want to try folding the slices so he could finish them off quicker.
I felt a little guilty, like one of those parents who try to live out their own failed dreams of glory on the baseball field or the beauty pageant stage by pushing their kids too hard in those activities. But I couldn’t help myself.
At just past the halfway point in the contest, a winner was declared. Corey Stevens of Grayson managed to scarf down his entire pie within that time to take first prize, a $50 gift card for the pizza chain that sponsored the contest.
Keep eating, I told Jakob. You can still take second place.
And eat he did. By that point, he was down to his final three slices. I suggested he stack two of them and eat them like a sandwich to shave off a little time, and that seemed to work well for him.
Jakob finished his final slice with just over 21⁄2 minutes left on the clock. He was far ahead of the remainder of the field — in fact, no one else was even close. He received a $25 pizza gift card for finishing second.
I asked him afterward how he felt and he replied, “Full.” He’s a kid of few words (a trait he doesn’t share with his dad, I should add.)
He never showed any ill effects from eating so much pizza in such a short amount of time, although it’s probably a good thing he didn’t ride any rides after the contest. If he had, I might’ve had a mess in my car to have to clean up later.
Seeing as how I won the watermelon-eating contest at Summer Motion a few years ago, Jakob and I now have something else in common — success in the world of competitive chewing and swallowing.
Our moms should be so proud.
KENNETH HART can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2654.