Close your eyes and try to remember a time you may have had an interaction with somebody close to the University of Kentucky Athletics. How bizarre, or normal, was it? Was it a player? A coach? Football? Basketball? Was it a tip of the hat? A thumbs-up? Ask for a photo? Did you hug DeMarcus Cousins at a gift shop in New Orleans, as my brother did in 2010?
Taking place last June, my own story begins where all great epics begin: on the Internet. The folks at KSTV began a new summer series entitled Fan vs Krebs. The concept of the show was simple enough. If you think you’re better than Mark Krebs (former Kentucky basketball player 2007-10) at whatever skill you possess, shoot an e-mail to KSTV and name the challenge.
So far, one episode had been shot and released. A fan took Mark paintballing. KSTV wanted more challenges. I have a pretty low threshold for pain. Why would I want to get shot? No…Instead, I wanted to eat (I was probably coming off of a Man vs. Food marathon).
Tumbleweed’s En Fuego Challenge (Eat this extra-large and extra-spicy burger), for whatever reason, came to mind. My challenge was accepted and KSTV set it up. I was expecting Tumbleweed to be a little annoyed about it all. "Sure, yeah. Come on. Order and film but hurry up." Not at all. Tumbleweed embraced us as like Creed embraced power ballads. They provided the meal, the drinks, and the coveted "I survived The En Fuego Challenge" t-shirts.
Mark must have watched Man vs. Food as much as I had. He was giddy from start to finish. The server brought our food. We ate it. We struggled. We knew the tricks (drink milk if things get too hot). It was not pleasant. What the episode doesn’t show, thankfully, is that I nearly vomited.
After we climbed that metaphorical Mt. Everest of chain-restaurant food challenges, Mark and I relished in the moment. Perhaps we weren’t destined to be in Coney Island with Joey Chestnut on July 4th, but for those 10 minutes in that Springhurst Tumbleweed’s corner booth, Mark and I could dream. We had Joey Chestnut’s number. We were Man vs. Food champions.
If you have any stories like this, please share! I’d love to hear how you challenged Coach Cal to a Vespa race to Wheeler’s Pharmacy, had your girlfriend stolen by a player, or went shot-for-shot with Billy Clyde.
(As an aside, I never experienced food sweats before. I went home and had a terrible evening. Even worse, I had to wake up at 5 the next morning for my flight/interview in Washington DC. Would not recommend.)
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