‘'It's a feeling that you start to know where he's going to serve,'' tennis great Roger Federer told reporters after deconstructing Andy Roddick's game at this year's US Open. ‘'You start to know you're not going to miss the forehand winner, to know that he can't attack you. It's more those things that go on inside your head, and you know exactly what shot to hit when you serve. Those are very rare moments in sport, and I'm lucky to have them once in a while.''
Some players may be lightning fast and ox strong, but against the Federers and Gretzkys of the world they might as well be moving in slow motion. After playing Federer, a slack-jawed Roddick must have known just how Keanu "Neo" Reeves felt in The Matrix when he realized that all of reality was actually a nefarious software program: "Whoa. "
Of course, this sort of Zen-like athleticism isn't confined to major-league sports. It can also be found at humbler venues such as Traders Village, a flea market in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. It is here that 57-year-old Lester Tucker reigns as champion of the annual World Championship Pickled Quail Egg Eating Contest.
Compared to Federer, who has won eight grand slams in his career, Tucker is a true titan. He has emerged victorious from the World Championship Pickled Quail Egg Eating Contest a record fifteen times. He's currently enjoying a winning streak that dates back to 1995.
How good is Lester Tucker? Tucker has eaten 42 pickled quail eggs in one minute.
I thought of Tucker as I endeavored to keep down a can of Aroy-D Quail Eggs in Water the other day. To the uninitiated, these babies look like cute miniature versions of a hen's egg. But bite into an Aroy-D Quail Egg in Water and you'll soon find that a quail egg's yolk-to-white ratio is much higher than that of your typical hen-laid egg.
Why is this important? It's not: Unless you're trying to eat 42 quail eggs in one minute. In that case, the yolk doesn't just clog your arteries; it clogs your throat. "If you chew them, it chokes you up. It slows you down," Tucker explains from his home in Grand Prairie, Texas. "I swallow 'em whole."
Quail eggs range in size from that of an easily swallowed queen olive to that of an esophagus-occluding golf ball.
Tucker uses a "two-handed method," quickly sorting the pebbles from the stones. Like Gretzky, he's thinking about the second egg before he has swallowed the first.
If only I'd met Lester Tucker sooner. Then I might have been spared the vile sensation of Aroy-D Quail Eggs in Water bursting in my mouth like so many sulphur-filled bombs.
The egg itself isn't so bad. Bland, yes. But bland I can manage. Aroy-D's truly remarkable attribute is the thin sheath of water that divides yolk from white. Biting through the thin white outer layer, this shallow body of water gurgles to the surface like a tepid sulphur spring. Each egg holds just enough water to both dilute and infect the creamy yolk, ensuring that its flavor and texture will coat every available surface in the mouth.
Tucker, quail egg-eating authority that he is, has tried this species of water-steeped eggs, and even he concedes that they're "pretty nasty." The Traders Village competition eggs, he assures me, are tasty, having been pickled in "jalapeño juice and a jelly-sauce-type deal."
But even Tucker knows his quail egg-eating days are numbered.
"I'll keep competing until someone beats me," he says, adding that his son recently came within striking range, consuming 37 in one minute. "Then I'll quit eatin' 'em, thank God."
I stand slack-jawed at the brute ingesting might of Tucker pére et fil. It's like Keanu says: