Breakfast of champions: The untold story

Published 6:00 pm Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Chatter around the big, round, oak table had been reduced to a muffled series of grunts, chomps and other garbled sounds of early morning pleasure. Plates filled with bacon, eggs, ham, cheese and sausage gravy — all covered in unexplainable amounts of ketchup and/or hot sauce — had been served. Facial muscles flexed from “jabbering” mode to “breakfast inhalation” mode. The competition had begun.

Big John Hudson came up for air first. He was the youngest of the group and the most skilled at vacuuming clean a plate filled with biscuits and gravy, hash browns and a side of everything else on the menu. He trained for breakfast like an Olympic athlete — except, no bowl of Wheaties on his training table (maybe a bowl of grits, oozing in butter).

Dropping his fork and throwing his right hand in the air, like a rodeo bull roper signaling completion in record time, Big John inwardly indicated his pleasure at conquering another 3,700 calories. Outwardly, no one seemed to notice.

Harry, Jimmy, Arnold, Tommy, and Mort were still concentrating on the competition for the championship in the Free-Style Breakfast Inhalation event. Big John may be ahead at the end of the time trials, but everyone was certain he could beaten on style points.

“I’m thinking of opening my own business,” mumbled John, as his tongue absorbed errant flecks of gravy clinging to the “near-miss” regions of his lips (with an uncanny resemblance to energy blobs, desperately struggling against the inevitable, in a hopeless attempt at escape from the black hole that is John’s mouth). “I’m going to be an Opinionator and open up franchise operations all over the country.”

Immediately, points were deducted from Big John’s overall score. The rules of competitive breakfast consumption clearly state that participants are not allowed to say stupid things until at least half of the competitors have signaled their finish by pushing engorged bellies back from the table, sliding empty plates toward the middle, holding up a coffee cup for a refill, or release of a well-toned belch (belches are still considered an indicator of having finished the competition — but, style points may be deducted).

“I do not want to know what an Opinionator is,” barked Harry — partly because he really didn’t want to know, and partly because he couldn’t waste valuable chewing time. All contestants over the age of 60 were granted a chewing handicap (much like golf, bowling and cherry pit spitting), based on doctor’s orders from the sanctioning body. Harry was hoping his 63 handicap might push him into the lead.

“People tell me their opinions, I write them down in a big book, then issue a certificate for the official Opinion Registration. It comes with a registration number and a cool seal of approval that changes color, depending on which way you look at it.”

“That’s stupid,” laughed Jimmy, as he slid his chair back from the table and silently tallied up his points for speed, style and originality of performance.

“If Jimmy had registered his opinion with me, everyone else would have to pay to use that opinion,” explained John. “Only Jimmy would be able to think this is a stupid idea.”

“Nope. I think it’s stupid, too,” growled Harry, unhappy with his possible silver medal finish. John’s foul for premature commentary had thrown Harry off his game — costing valuable creativity points for his selection of a bran muffin and fruit, covered in maple syrup and melted butter.

“If Jimmy had registered his opinion, then Harry would have owed Jimmy a half cent for using his opinion. Every time someone says this idea is stupid, Jimmy would make a half-cent. It’s a great idea. I’m going to be rich!”

“Then, it’s a good thing Jimmy didn’t register his opinion,” laughed Tommy as he lifted his coffee cup as a signal of completion. At 82, Tommy is no longer an active competitor — he’s just happy to still be playing in the game. “I’m thinking everyone here holds the opinion that this is a stupid idea.”

“Don’t worry though,” added Arnold, as he let out a huge sigh, pushed back from the table, while simultaneously sliding his empty plate to the middle of the table — trying to make up for his lack of speed with big dismount points. “No one is going to steal your opinion about this being a good idea.”

“Or, that you are going to be rich.”


Larry Wilson is a mostly lifelong resident of Niles. His optimistic “glass full to overflowing” view of life shapes his writing. His essays stem from experiences, compilations and recollections from friends and family. Wilson touts himself as “a dubiously licensed teller of tall tales, sworn to uphold the precept of ‘It’s my story; that’s the way I’m telling it.’” He can be reached at