A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Why Sports Fans Should Watch Top Chef

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A new season of Top Chef has started, and I feel it’s my duty to tell you, dear sports fanatic, that if you haven’t watched Top Chef, you should.  Now look, there are different types of sports fans.  I know not all of us will like Top Chef.  But consider that I’m not really at all into cooking, and I still love it.

I wasn’t expecting this.  My wife put the show on, and before I knew it I was sucked in.  For me the key thing, is that as a lover of sport, I’m a competition junkie.  No, not all competition – Dancing With the Stars makes me feel ill.  Really though, any time I can watch competition between people who are really dedicated to what they are competing in, it doesn’t take much else to hook me in.

If you’re the type of sports fan who is also really into, say, the WWE, well then Top Chef might not be for you.  You’re probably more into the violence and the machismo more than anything else, and Top Chef doesn’t have that to near the same degree.

On the other hand, if you’re a competition junkie who is turned off at the idea of reality television based on the type of drama you see in much of the rest of reality television, then you should really give it a shot because such bitchiness is kept to a minimum on this show.  Even compared to other competition-focus reality programs like Project Runway or American Idol, there’s much less bad-drama going on.  Chefs, it seems, are for the most part no nonsense workaholics.  These aren’t a bunch of divas here designing from the clouds.  They are used to having work long shifts of constant action in hot kitchens every night.  They are, in other words, people who a sports fan wants to root for.  So give it a shot.

On a final note, there’s one more component that makes Top Chef a great show for me, and it’s an unexpected strength:  The competitors are judged on how their food tastes, but I can’t taste their food.  For some people this is clearly a drawback, and certainly I’d like to eat what they’re cooking.  However, a key component I think to anyone who is a competition junkie is objective meaning in the competition.  Nothing can kill a sport faster than the idea that the sport is rigged.  And a related point to that is the fact that if referees can’t consistently get their calls right, whether they on the take or not, fans are going to get frustrated with the idea the wrong team/player/competitor won.  For if the wrong team won, then winning ceases to have any significant meaning.

You saw me reference Project Runway up above, and well, I’ll admit that I watch that too, albeit with less enthusiasm than I do Top Chef.  I wouldn’t recommend Project Runway to y’all for a variety of reason, but one reason is that because you can experience the competitors’ products with the same primary modality as the Project Runway judges, and you can hear the judges discuss their decision, it becomes quite clear that they really don’t have any objective criteria.  Not only does it come down to taste – it comes down to who won the competition in previous seasons and their concern about the perception of their verdicts.  That’s an awful buzzkill, and the disturbing thing is – it’s possible Top Chef has some of that going as well.  However, because I cannot taste what the judges taste, it lends automatically a quantity of credibility to just about anything they say, which in turn let me enjoy the show more, without concerns of meaninglessness clouding my mind.

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Written by Matt Johnson

December 8, 2010 at 12:04 am

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