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EATING & DRINKING

Fink Beats the Stomach!

By engobulation editor Tracy 'Mmm Mmm' Goode

Posted June 24, 2015
Fink Beats the Stomach at Nathans 2014
The fabulous Fink brothers: Mike (left) and James at last year's Nathan's. © Mike Sullivan

The duo behind gurgitatory podcast Fink Beats the Stomach chat with the R&H's Tracy 'Mmm Mmm' Goode.


Many sports journalists have found their niche with particular sports.

They spend years paying their dues following the sport of their passion and become trusted and respected by the athletes that they cover.

Bert Sugar: boxing.

Barry Melrose: hockey.

And now Mike Sullivan and James Splendore: competitive eating.


COOKED UP IN A HELL'S KITCHEN KITCHEN
On June 7, 2014 from the kitchen in their flat in Hell's Kitchen, New York, lifelong friends competitive eating superfan Mike Sullivan and Wild Turkey whiskey superfan James Splendore began their voyage into history and what became the Fink Beats the Stomach (FBTS) competitive eating podcast.

Since then they have made quite a name for themselves in the competitive eating world and have gone on to conduct very in-depth interviews with many of the giants of the sport: Badlands Booker, Miki Sudo and Crazy Legs Conti just to name a few.

What started off as Mike trying to convince James that not only is competitive eating a sport, but also the most entertaining sport on the planet, is now a bi-weekly podcast as part of the Heavy Hitter Network, recently running eater spotlights on individual gurgitators that can be seen eating at this year's Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest (which will be aired on ESPN2, with the women's contest online at ESPN3).

I had the pleasure to interview the completive eaters' interviewers and now, here on the food-fighting-tastic Rake & Herald, is that very interview with those very same said interviewers.

And here's what they said....


 Fink Beats the Stomach  in their kitchen
Cooking up a podcast: The Fink brothers get to work in the kitchen. © Mike Sullivan


How long have you guys known each other and how did you meet?

James Splendore (JS): Mike and I have been best friends for around 12 years.

We went to high school and college together and carpooled to senior year of high school and were on the same bus before we got our licences.

Mike Sullivan (MS): Long enough that I convinced him to do a podcast about competitive eating.


How did FBTS start?

JS: I came home after a long day at the office and wanted nothing more than to order dinner and go to bed and Mike cornered me in the living room and pitched this idea, an idea that no one else had ever had before (or so he said).

"We should start a podcast about competitive eating," he said – words I never thought I would hear in my life.

After some protesting, negotiations over how often we would record and a Chinese food order, we came up with FBTS.


Where'd you go to college? Was competitive eating journalism a class?

MS: Manhattan College up in the Bronx – I majored in chemical engineering.

JS: Same school as Mickey with a major in urban studies.

And if I have anything to do with it, competitive eating journalism will be a major.


Mike, how long have you been a fan of competitive eating and what got you into it?

MS: Officially, I'd say since 2011.

I always knew that it was a thing, but I first sat down and really watched Nathan's in 2011.

I was really drawn in by the over-the-top personalities that reminded me a lot of professional wrestling.

After that I was hooked!


Have you ever competed or thought about competing?

MS: I haven't competed, but the thought has definitely crossed my mind.


Any particular event?

MS: As a competitive eating journalist, I feel like I owe it to myself to at least give it one go round.

I would love to try my hand at hot dogs – it's the gold standard of the sport.


In the first podcast, Mike says he's going to convince you, James, of the wonders of the sport. Convinced yet?

JS: I have been convinced that this is an incredibly fun and compelling season.

The actual eating is usually secondary but the characters and storyline sell themselves.


Eater X is Mike's favourite eater. James, do you have a personal favourite?

JS: Badlands Booker, hands down.

He is as good on the mic as he is at the table.

He's a family man, an emcee, a star and a top-notch eater.

MS: He also wished my mum a happy birthday... just saying.


 Fink Beats the Stomach with Eric 'Badlands' Booker
Top bloke: The Finks with Badlands Booker at Wing Bowl XXIII. © Mike Sullivan


OK. Something I'm dying to know: why the Recess theme? It's the best 90s cartoon. Who came up with that idea? Explain...

MS: I'm happy to take credit for that one.

James and I talked a lot about what would work for the show.

Since Meatballs served as our name inspiration, we wanted something upbeat, catchy and gave a summer-camp vibe.

One day, I said, "Let's get something like the Recess theme."


You've interviewed Badlands, Miki Sudo, Juan More Bite, Crazy Legs and Cardboard Shell. Who's on the dream list? Who would you guys like to get on FBTS?

MS: For me, Eater X and the Sheas [Chief hack: Viz George and Richard Shea, co-founders and, respectively, CEO and president of Major League Eating (MLE)].

It would be awesome to have the Fink brothers sit down in studio with the Shea brothers.

JS: And, of course, Bill Murray, godfather to the podcast.


Anyone outside of MLE?

JS: I would actually love – and I know he's listening – to get Action Bronson on the show.

He combines my love of hip hop and food.

MS: I wouldn't mind having Kelis on and asking her about a milkshake eating contest.


Anything planned for the one-year anniversary?

MS: Our one-year falls during the lead up to Nathan's.

We will definitely do something special.

We know the Super Bowl of competitive eating is right after, so we don't want to take too much of the focus away.

What I can say... anything we do for our one-year anniversary is going to pale in comparison to what we have for the end of the year.

JS: And that's going to be major!

We have some great plans for end of year.


So, what's planned for the end of the year?

MS: For end of year, it has to stay under wraps for now – still working out the details.

Likely to make an announcement post-Nathan's.

Looking at an August time frame.

We are VERY excited.


You both are fans of Pro Wrestling, correct?

MS: Haha. I am!

James is a closeted fan.

He doesn't like to admit it.


You both talk about how you enjoy the characters. Big Brian Subich mentioned that competitive eating could take a cue from WWE with characters and rivalries. I'd like to do a word association. I name an eater and you give me a wrestler they'd embody.

MS: Of course!

JS: I'll try my best.


Matt Stonie?

JS: Rey Mysterio Jr.

MS: The crowd loves to get behind him.

Based on his size, he surprises you with what he can do and he pulls off some of the most insane stunts you'll see in the sport.

His YouTube page is nuts!


matt megatoad stonie at Hillsborough northern ireland
Top vids, top eater: Matt 'Megatoad' Stonie in Norn Iron two years ago yesterday. © Ignatius Rake


Miki Sudo?

MS: I'd go with Lita.

Oozes personality through her unique style and proves she can hang with any of the guys.


Joey Jaws?

JS: Even I can take this one.

John Cena.

He's a crowd favourite and it seems like no one can beat him.

MS: ...and the face of the company!

Does all the appearances and interviews.

Always talking up and promoting MLE.

He is a company man.


Last one: Crazy Legs Conti?

MS: Oh man, there are so many different directions you can go.

Macho Man comes to mind.

One of the most colourful personalities in the sport.

Not to mention the short commentary stint he did with Rich on Spike TV – shades of Macho on RAW.

JS: Exactly what Mike said.


Would you like to see different divisions, like in wrestling? Tag Team/hardcore/divas?

MS: Haha! Hardcore competitive eating – I wonder what that'd entail.


Hardcore: Gross foods/bugs.

MS: Tag Team would be interesting, but I think at the end of the day what makes the sport so great is being able to get behind one eater and see them triumph.

Comes down to their pure ability.


You guys drink a lot on your show. Drink of choice?

JS: Haha! Always bourbon.

Always on the rocks.


Brand?

JS: We have experimented with a few but the mainstays have been Evan Williams, Bulleit and Jim Beam and if any of those fine brands would care to align themselves with the FBTS brand, they are more than welcome.


How do you get your guests?

MS: We have sort of stumbled through that, honestly.

One has sort of led to another.

A lot of it had to do with meeting a bunch of people at the Foxwoods turkey contest – it's all about networking! – and everyone we have met on the circuit has been super welcoming.


Would you welcome competition (in competitive eating podcasting)?

MS: There have been some here and there.

Beautiful Brian had one... so did Don Sturdy a few years ago.

A lot of shows have done one off episodes about competitive eating... nothing long term.

We'd love competition!

Anything that helps grow the sport.

We try not to take it too seriously.


joey jaws chestnut in toronto
Head and shoulders above the rest: Joey 'Jaws' Chestnut in 2013 yesterday. © Ignatius Rake


OK. Lightning round: if they met today and the contest was hot dogs, Joey Jaws versus Kobayashi. Who wins?

JS: Kobi.

MS: Joey.


Bonus question: will they ever meet again?

JS: No.

MS: Yeah, I don't Fink so either, unfortunately.


I see what you did there. Where would you like to see FBTS? How big do you guys see it? Plans to get it there?

MS: The sky is the limit!!

The real goal is to bring outside attention into the world of competitive eating.

I'm hoping we get there by people finding James and I entertaining to listen to – but, honestly, we can probably only get as big as the sport does.


With more coverage of events on ESPN, any aspirations of getting the call to the big league?

JS: I think we need to hop the Shea brothers, Rich and George, who are the main emcees for MLE, first but if Robert Flores wants to take me under his wing, we can talk.


Do you guys consider yourselves the Keith Olbermann/Dan Patrick of the sport?

JS: Not many people are Olbermann or Patrick.

Both are Titans in the game for a reason.

We are more the old guys in the back of all the Muppets movies making snide comments.


Waldorf and Statler? Nice! What eaters do you guys watch/subscribe to on YouTube?

MS: Two biggest are definitely Big Eaters Club [BEC] and Matt Stonie.

BEC do amazing eating challenges and really build the community of competitive eating.

Stonie... well, he's Stonie.

His stunts are unreal.


James, do you subscribe to any or are you still just a mild fan?

JS: I'm not as heavy into the videos.

My version of subscription is having Mike say, "Have you seen this Stonie video?" when I come home from work.

MS: LA Beast has some insane videos.

[Rake & Herald competitive eating editor Naader 'Freak8r' Reda] is another person who is just a great ambassador for the sport who helps build the community.


I think that wraps up my questions. Anything either of you guys want to add?

MS: Have to give a big shout out to the Heavy Hitter Network.

They have helped us so much to grow into what we are today.

JS: On a personal note, this podcast has been a string of experiences, events and conversations I never thought I would have.

Mike and I have been friends for 10+ years and been in a lot of schemes, hijinks and jokes but this one has taken us further than anything before.

Thanks to him, the competitive eating community and anyone who took a minute to listen to us be best friends.


Cheif hack's note: Monumentally monster massive thanks to Mike, James and Mmm Mmm for their questions and answers there. Thing is, as the Rake & Herald is a Cornwall-based news organ, it's highly possible that we might have dropped a bollock or three with regard to some of the links pertaining to the various American cultural references above. If so and you've spotted them, make sure you, yes YOU, the cherished and beloved readers of the Rake & Herald, click this now to win some right royal norks-out prizes this minute!!!

Whatever you do, though, get your cybernetic arse over to the
Fink Beats the Stomach podcast on iTunes or the FBTS website jobbie here and here, respectively. What's more, you can also follow the Fink brothers on Twitter just by giving this a click, innit? So what are you waiting for? Don't delay. Do it today!


See also A chat with two legends, posted 20/3/15.


Tracy 'Mmm Mmm' Goode
is a Major League Eating gurgitator with some damn fine taste in music. The Rake & Herald is honoured to have him write for us. Check out his YouTube channel here.




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