Should they be considered athletes?

The idea that competitive eaters are athletes is as widely accepted as the idea that hot dogs are healthy foods.

Take Eric “Badlands” Booker, one of the most popular figures in the history of the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. He is 6-5 and weighs 420 pounds.

“I still have a long way to go as an athlete like a LeBron James in basketball or a Tom Brady in football,” said Booker, 53. “But I know what I have to do to stay strong, to be competitive. stay in competitive eating.”

Booker is a throwback to days gone by, when massive men knocked at Nathan’s long table at New York’s Coney Island and eating hot dogs began. This year’s features include a former college basketball player, a former college soccer player, a former competitive bodybuilder, a professional wrestler and a host of contestants who look more fit than fat.