There is so much bad news coming out of the States - a pandemic in the suburbs, riots in the streets, corruption in Congress, imbecility in the White House, that it is easy to overlook the good news.
Such as the fact that in Brooklyn, New York this Fourth of July weekend, despite the plague and despite the riots, they were still able to hold the annual Nathan's Famous hot dog eating competition.
What better way could there be to celebrate the independence of this remarkable country than a display of competitive eating?
And before you assume I am mentioning this event only to mock it, I would have you know that I have taken part myself in an event of a similar, if strictly amateur, nature, as anyone who was lingering in or near the Brighton Grammar School dining hall on or about the year 1971 will unhesitatingly recall.
The occasion was lunch at school which we knew as dinner and which was cooking at its least imaginative, dominated by cheap meat and carbohydrates, plus cabbage twice a week. (I could tell it was a cabbage day from about 10am which was when they began boiling the stuff, and the smell drifted from the kitchens across the playing field and the lower playground and seeped through even closed windows and caught a nauseous little nerve at the back of my throat and my hopes for the day, and for life itself even, fell like a shot bird.)
The day in question was not a cabbage day. It was a roast potato day and Dave Collier proposed a roast potato eating competition and I was up for it. The rules were simple. You picked the biggest roast potato you thought you could eat whole, then tried to eat it whole. Dave, who was an expert, chose a large potato. I, who was a novice, chose a larger. The crowd gasped.
One two three go, said Mike Morris, and Dave and I set about cramming our spuds into our mouths. Dave's went in readily. Mine went in eventually. I resembled a python that had taken on a goat, except that a python's jaws can dislocate. My jaws could only ache. Once the spud was in I was stuck. I was cast. I couldn't move my tongue, my teeth, my anything. All I could do was wait for my saliva to break the thing down.
From my immobility the crowd sensed that I was in trouble. They began to laugh. I gave up. I tried to pull the potato out of my mouth but couldn't get my fingers in. I was plugged. My gob was stopped.
And then the heat from the potato began to radiate. It wasn't great heat but it had nowhere to go. It built up on my cheeks and my tongue. I could feel blisters bulging on my palate. I leant my head back and tipped water down the sides of the potato. Most of it went down my shirt. I felt panic surge. I heard the crowd laugh. I was no longer competing with Dave Collier. I was wrestling with death.
I tried to scream for help. I could only gurgle. The crowd laughed louder. My life was going to end at 14 - nipped in the bud from biting off more than I could chew.
Joe Bennett: Corporate marketing and its infantile fictions
Tithing and taxes, churches and business - kindred souls?
I groped for a fork, raised it high as if to stab Caesar, and plunged it deep into the butt of the spud. The effect was to force it down over my windpipe. Asphyxia loomed. I stabbed and stabbed in desperation, twisting the fork till suddenly the potato broke and, ladies and gentlemen, I blew. I blew like Moby Dick. Potato, saliva and relief erupted over the dining table. The air has never tasted sweeter nor the sense of life to come.
I know I am not made of the stuff that heroes are made of. There and then I renounced competitive eating. Let others do it, others who are stronger than I. And so it is with a doffed hat that I introduce you to Mr Joey Chestnut, who is currently ranked first in Major League Eating in the United States and who won this year's Nathan's Famous hot dog eating competition for the 13th time in 14 years of trying.
In doing so he broke his own record by putting away 75 hot dogs, buns included, in just 10 minutes.
"This sport isn't about eating," said Chestnut. "It's about drive and dedication, and at the end of the day, hot dog eating challenges both my body and my mind."
Chestnut is 36.