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Sure, the start of summer means it's time for picnicing, drinking rosé and marinating meat in shitty booze (well, at least according to our 20 Things To Look Forward To This Summer guide). But it also signals the arrival of the competitive eating season, highlighted by a signature event — the annual Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest on July 4. Did you know that MLE (that's Major League Eating and yes, it does exist) sanctions a number of other highly competitive eating contests throughout the summer?  

Coverage of competitive eating has taken off in the past several years, spurred on by rivalries like Kobayashi v. Chestnut and the simple idea that this could be the closest any of us get to being professional athletes. Which brings us to the all-important question: Is competitive eating actually a sport? The Atlantic recently examined this question in a think piece that had us at Food Republic thinking: "Did The Atlantic really just examine this question in a think piece?" Love it, hate it or simply tolerate it, though, competitive eating is bigger than ever. Here are 10 stories to get you pumped to watch grown men stuff themselves with tube steaks.