Athens, GA (Apr 30, 2008) - The press release from CBS College Sports Network had me scratching my head. Even though it was dated April 10, 2008, I was certain it had to be a belated April Fool's Day joke. No, the CBS Press representative assured me, it was not. So here I sat with a news release touting the broadcast of the first ever "Collegiate Nationals Eating Championship", wondering if this should be taken seriously or not.
You may ask why I had feelings of ambivalence. I always look forward, with a hint of guilty pleasure, to watching the annual 4th of July hot-dog eating contest from Coney Island. But what about this rang differently with me? It is very simple. We are in the midst of an unprecedented global food shortage as politicians are foolishly diverting crops to the hugely environmentally unfriendly (but politically popular) notion that ethanol fuel will reduce dependence on oil.
As a result, food prices are escalating beyond the reach of the poorest of the poor around the world. In Haiti and other places, riots are taking place every day as people struggle to get even the basic staples of human subsistence for their children.
So what is CBS College Sports Network, in the grand tradition of American greed and overconsumption, doing? They are working with the Association of Independent Competitive Eaters (AICE) to stage this outrageous, in the context of current global conditions, event.
The business reputation of a company is their most valuable asset. When I make presentations at conferences and speak to companies about maginging risk, especially business reputation, I always make the statement that "just because someone CAN do something does not mean that they SHOULD!" This is clearly the case for what CBS Sports is doing here.
This event is nothing more than an embarassment and a shining example of the culture of excess we have in the United States. CBS should look to themselves and either:
1. Cancel the event; or
2. Reach an agreement with the Association of Independent Competitive Eaters (AICE) to donate any profits from this event, or an amount equal to the cost of producing this event (whichever is greater) to the World Food Programme.
Sure college is a time of reckless abandon, but times have changed. Corporations need to step up and do the right thing.