"I think I could do that."
These are the words that began an otherwise normal 30-year-old man's trip down a road that ended with him attempting to eat a 6-pound burger. Actually, "6-pound burger" doesn't begin to describe something that contains six beef patties, six slices of bacon, 10 ounces of Black Forest ham, three fried eggs, six slices of cheese, grilled onions, tomatoes and lettuce. You could call it a sandwich, if you think sandwiches should be more than two feet tall, use grilled cheese sandwiches in place of buns and be named the Triple Bypass Challenge.
That's right, this item on the Sidelines Sports Bar and Grill menu is not a burger. It's a challenge and if you can eat it, along with a pound of french fries, in under an hour it's free. You're also rewarded with a T-shirt and a spot on the bar's Wall of Fame.
"No one could eat that," I replied, but he persisted as we sat in a crowded Sidelines on a Sunday afternoon, he cheering on his beloved Denver Broncos and I providing a steady stream of smartass Tim Tebow jokes. But he didn't let it go... not that afternoon and not for the weeks that followed. He said he could pull this off and I started to believe him.
His name is Conor Holmberg. He's a teacher, a good friend of mine and a large man. Not enormous, but at 6 feet 4 inches, he's the sort of person one could look at and say, "Maybe he could eat 6 pounds of meat in an hour." And last week, he tried exactly that when I met him at Sidelines. It was the middle of the afternoon and the place was mostly empty as a bartender emerges from the kitchen with the Triple Bypass Challenge in his arms.
Then I realize that I might have been correct in my original assessment that no one could do this. And statistically, I'm correct. I ask the bartender how many people have accomplished this gastronomic feat and he says that 22 have tried. None have succeeded. If you get a look at this greasy mountain of "burger" and see that it requires an almost 3-foot spike to keep it erect you'd see why.
Conor requests some ranch and ketchup, which is perfectly within bounds. The only thing he can't do is take an unattended bathroom break or vomit into the bucket with which he's been provided. He lifts a segment of the burger from the spike and digs in. The clock starts and he begins systematically destroying this thing. Damn, he might do this, I think. And he's come prepared with a stack of printed out internet tips about how to win an eating challenge. He means business, and right now, business is looking pretty good. And pretty delicious.
At four minutes in, he's taken down at least a sixth of this tower of gluttony and a crowd of about a dozen or so supporters is shouting out ideas. One guy recommends he smash the entire burger and the fries in a bowl, douse it with gravy and pound it into some sort of meaty puree. Conor doesn't listen to this interesting albeit time-consuming advice, and at 12 minutes in, after he switches to a fork and a knife, he's soldiering on.
"Everything is done nicely and it tasted great for the first three or four minutes," he says through a mouth of food.
At 24 minutes in, it still looks like he could pull this off, even if his eyes appear to be glazed with bacon grease and the giddy grin he walked in with has faded to a more dour expression. This is beginning to become painful, he says, and the pain is compounded when a server tells us about a guy who got within a few fries of finishing and then could go no further.
30 minutes in: "It's hard to swallow," he says.
39 minutes in: "My jaw hurts."
45 minutes in: "Inside of me is a bowling ball and inside of the bowling ball is a chemistry set."
51 minutes in: "That's it. I don't feel well at all."
His eyes have grown even greasier and even more distant as he crushes his well-used napkin in his hand like the competitive eating dreams of the 22 brave souls who've come before him. Pushing his plate away, he glares at the remaining stack of beef, cheese and pork.
"Just pick that up," he instructs. I do and the thing is disturbingly heavy. After time runs out, he tells me to take a bite - through the grilled cheese sandwich, the ham, bacon, beef and onions - and it's really, really good. I wonder if I could eat two feet of this, but I quickly kick the idea out of my brain and look over at Conor, who is trying to sip water, but even that looks like it hurts.
He receives a bevy of high fives, deservedly so, and sits in agony at his seat for a while. He leaves soon after I do, but less than an hour later, I get this text message: "I just puked behind Albertsons."
Of course he did. He should have puked. The man destroyed almost five pounds of this thing. Sure, he didn't get to the fries, but whatever. This is tough.
Still, I can't help but think that someone could do this. Just remember to keep that bucket nearby.
The Triple Bypass Challenge
1 hour, six pounds. Eat it all, it's free. If not, $26.95. Sidelines Sports Bar and Grill, 1020 NW Wall St.