In high school... I could eat! I was a growing boy. I was always hungry and never gained weight. I was invincible. Or so I thought. There was (maybe still is) a restaurant in Tampa that offered a six pound challenge. Ninetysix ounces of beef for the willing. Eat it all and the table eats for free. I rolled in there with my family like I owned the place. I was so young and confident... I even took my girlfriend. The whole family gathered around to watch... they ordered what they wanted because surely we'd all be eating for free.
The place really knew who to do it up. The chef came out with a cow bell and a bullhorn to announce that "this young man thinks he can take the challenge! This, friends and family, is not for the faint of heart! If you have a heart condition, are pregnant or may think you may be... you should not watch."
Dads brought their kids over to look and held them high to watch the spectacle. They looked at me and then their kid thinking, "one day Son, you may make me this proud."
The challenge was six pounds of beef in an hour. I'm no expert on steak but I do know this. That steak sucked. It was so huge I couldn't cut all the way though it. I had to chop triangular wedges out of it like I was an axeman besting a redwood trunk. Several times I had to send it back because I'd hit a raw spot. And for every raw spot there was patch of meat as tough as leather.
By the time the clocked stopped I think I finished a little over four pounds. I may have been able to continue but my jaw was sore. So tired of chewing. Mouth fatigue.
And I left with my picture hanging in the four pound section of the "wall of shame." Right there along with all the other over confident "I can eat anything" losers.
But the funny part is this.
When I went off to college, leaving high school behind starting anew and reinvented, I was a six pound champion. Somewhere along the lines I told the story of how I ate six pounds of meat and from there the legend grew. I again was invincible.
A few years later when I took a college friend home the topic came up of where to go for dinner. My brother (pictured above with the look of awe at the shear size of the challenge before me) suggested we go to the steakhouse.
"Nah, I don't feel like going there," I said. Knowing I'd be caught in a lie.
"Hey, isn't that the place with your picture?" My friend asked.
"Yeah, I think so. How about seafood?" I offered.
Soon, we were on our way to the steakhouse where we would find my crushed ego.
Preemptively, I confessed. "Listen, about that challenge. I'm not the man I've portrayed myself to be. I never actually finished the ninety six ounces. I failed the challenge. I failed you."
And then the tears of betrayal began. The cries about shattered confidences. Between the sobs I could make out "How could you!"
When we got there I learned the steakhouse had burned down and been rebuilt since then erasing all the awards and photos.
But, I was able to sleep easy with a clear conscience... after a nice salad with a side of confession.