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Caps and Gluttony

The champion, afterwards. (By Toni Sandys -- The Washington Post)

Tim McDermott had his first hot dog for lunch this afternoon. "Like a pre-game meal," the Caps; chief marketing officer said.

Kevin Kenney had his first dog about an hour before the Caps and Maple Leafs dropped the puck; "quality control," explained Aramark's regional director.

Those were perhaps the first two shots in tonight's fusillade of cured meat, as the Caps hosted what is believed to be the first Dollar Dog Night in franchise history. Kenney coolly rattled off the relevant stats before the first intermission rush; a typical Caps crowd consumes between one and two thousand dogs, which works out to between 0.1 and 0.2 wieners per. For the Leafs game, Aramark planned to cook 10,000 dogs and brought another 5k for backup, figuring on a consumption rate of between 0.75 and 1.0. (Final results came in too late for this edition, but the tally was expected to be between 12,000 and 14,000.) Two extra executive chefs had been brought in to supervise production and to coordinate the distribution of 250 dogs at a time to the 14 participating stands.

The hockey clubs in Philadelphia and Dallas regularly hold such gluttonous promotions, "and Philly is an anomaly in the hot dog world," Kenney said. "For some unknown reason, they sell almost 2.5 per person."

That figure twirled slowly in the air, as if speared on some imaginary warming device, as the crowd--which included 2,500 college students bearing $10 Student Rush tickets- emerged to claim its foodstuffs. To help control the supply, customers were limited to four per person per purchase. One threesome quickly sauntered by with the requisite 12 dogs.

"Maxed out," bragged Andrew Dolan, a Georgetown senior. I asked what their goal for the night was. "Only time will tell," he said. "I think double digits is a fair assessment. We've been fasting."

Despite all the preparation, minor problems soon emerged. One fan told me his dogs were cold, while another who hit a stand between replenishing deliveries claimed he had to wait 22 minutes for his dog. Aman Trana munched on a hamburger--"a time killer," she called it--while waiting for a quartet of franks to bring back to her friends.

"You can quote me on this one: they're overpriced at $1," she said, before admitting that she was outraged to hear a fan asking for a salad. "This is hockey. This is what we come for. It's part of the experience. It's a break from healthy eating."

Upstairs, meantime, Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas was just starting her hot dog tutorial. Thomas, a professional eater and world-record holder, was brought in to referee the college student hot-dog eating contest during the second intermission, a three-minute lightning contest featuring contestants from six area schools.

"Drink the bun, drink the bun," she was instructing the contestants.

"Can we get beer to dunk it in instead of water?" requested Georgetown's Katy Welter, who once won a pie-eating contest. ("I ate 10 pounds of shoofly pie in 8 minutes," Thomas said.)

"Like lubricant," Thomas was explaining about the water.

"This is grossing me out," Welter said.

"If they had a wing-eating contest, I'd win it," boasted Virginia Tech's Alex Malycke, who had limited himself to one can of tuna fish and lots of Mountain Dew in preparation for the throw-down.

"I ate 174 wings in 12 minutes," Thomas pointed out.

After a brief demonstration by Thomas, with play-by-play from Elliot in the Morning, the main event finally arrived. All of the contestants were booed lustily, although to my ears George Mason was booed the least and Georgetown the most. Despite a helpful sign in the crowd--"Katy is No Weenie"--Georgetown's Welter quickly became a non-factor and finished with 1.5 dogs downed.

"I like hot dogs a lot," she said. "I wanted to enjoy it."

Malycke battled game contestants from George Mason and Maryland but emerged victorious: seven hot dogs and buns in three minutes, with only a modest bit of white foamy residue coating his chin.

"I could do, like, five more," he estimated. "I'm just slow."

The platters of uneaten dogs were distributed to nearby fans. Maryland freshman Sanjay Vemuri, who downed five dogs, took 11 more with him. They were for his friends, he said, although he thought he might need some nourishment later.

"Maybe one more in the third period," he said. "I'll still be hungry."

(On Frozen Blog chronicled the contest visually, which is much more arresting. See pics here.)

By Dan Steinberg  |  January 24, 2008; 9:23 PM ET
Categories:  Caps  
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