Via common sense, that precious gift from our god and creator (David Appelman), we know that there is a limit to which any elite athlete can push his or her body. Often, that is an abstract concept, some theoretical level that we could never hope to attain, but that people like Mike Trout, Michael Phelps, and Michelle Kwan can approach.
Like most people with a name derived from the archangel Michael, I have finally reached that plateau. Over the past weekend, which I spent in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania as a willing, nay enthusiastic, participant at the annual conference for the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), I put myself to the test and touched the face of Appelman (note: I am speaking figuratively; in the strictest legal sense, I did not violate the restraining order). Under the watchful eye and painful lash of my NotGraphs “editor,” Carson Cistulli, I made it my mission to discover if a man could live almost exclusively on Yuengling Lager and cheesesteaks for an entire SABR convention.
I arrived on Thursday morning, and stayed until Sunday morning, so I was limited to three lunches and three dinners. As such, I did strive to have what I thought would be the breakfast equivalent of a cheesesteak on both Friday and Saturday mornings. Most of this came from the amazing Reading Terminal Market, which was located directly across from our hotel in the heart of the city. I can’t recommend this conglomeration of quick restaurants, fresh produce, meat, and seafood, bakeries, coffee bars, and assorted deliciousness enough. And since I’m told that Power Rankings are SEO gold, here are the official rankings of the food I ate over the course of three days:
1) Spataro’s cheesesteak – with onions, mushrooms, and grilled hot peppers the best of the six cheesesteaks or cheesesteakesque concoctions I had by far. Perfect with the hot peppers. Mushrooms weren’t rubbery and stayed in the background. Bread was perfect.
2) various Beiler’s Donuts – chocolate mousse, chocolate peanut butter cream, chocolate frosting, and triple chocolate cake. All delicious
3) Beck’s Cajun Cafe breakfast po’ boy (consisting of two eggs (over easy), shaved Andouille sausage, and cheese on a hard roll) – hard to eat, but otherwise a great breakfast that left me full until afternoon, not that that stopped me from eating more.
4) Carmen’s cheesesteak – very good cheesesteak overall, there’s no shame here. The bread was great. The mushrooms, peppers, and onions were better at Spataro’s.
5) Field House cheesesteak – Steak wasn’t really shaved, so I’m not sure if this can count as an official cheesesteak or some kind of ribeye steak sandwich, topped with Truffled Pecorino Cheese and carmelized onions. Came with herb aioli. Served on a long roll.
6) Cheeseburger (with pepper jack, fried onions, and bacon) and fries from Fergie’s Pub on Sansom St. – Damn good burger. Eat it unadorned.
7) Citizen’s Bank Ballpark cheesesteak – I’m bumping this up a little because I ate it in the 9th inning, and it had been sitting under a heater for a couple innings. Still perfectly delicious.
8) Cheesesteak spring rolls from from Fergies – A weird thing that others liked more than I did. The crunchy outside really took me out of it.
9) Famous 4th Street Cookies chocolate chip cookie – Needed more brown sugar
10) Molly Malloy’s breakfast sandwich with egg (over easy) and American cheese on white bread – They forgot to shout out my order number and by the time I got it, it had started to congeal and was cold.
11) By George! cheesesteak – Mushrooms were terrible and the bread was stale. Didn’t order it with hot peppers, but should have. Focused too much on making the sandwich big and not tasty.
12) Citizen’s Bank Ballpark Crab fries – These came highly recommended and were a complete disappointment. Average, thin fries with not enough Bay (or whatever) seasoning. Cost $8 for a big tub. Would have been better off sneaking in some McDonald’s.
All told, that’s five cheesesteaks, one cheesesteak spring roll, two breakfast po boys, one breakfast sandwich, four donuts, a cookie, some fries, and a burger. I also had an orange juice, five Diet Pepsis, two Diet Cokes, and about two dozen Yuengling Lagers. As I felt my arteries coursing with cholesterol, I thought of the grand experiment underway, and forced my blood to continue pumping so as to report back to you that, indeed, it is possible (though it’s also a bad idea) to live this way for three straight days. But given that my heart felt like it was about to explode yesterday in the Baltimore airport while I waited for my plane home, I cannot recommend pushing yourself to a fourth day. This is the upper limit of human endurance and the pinnacle of human achievement. I did this for you, and I did not ask for anything in return (except for Carson and God Appelman to pay me for this post).
(thanks to my SABR roommate and fancy lad David Temple for the photoshop)