May 31, 2024 - News

How a fantasy football loser ate his escape from Waffle House

Martin Vassolo stressing over eating another waffle at Waffle House

Martin and Manny Jr. at Waffle House. Photo: Sommer Brugal/Axios

Fantasy football was supposed to be a fun hobby with fake teams. But losing my league this year carried stomach-churning consequences: I was sentenced to 24 hours at Waffle House.

Why it matters: The "Waffle House challenge" is a cruel and unusual fantasy football punishment that's certain to leave you in gastrointestinal agony, but could get your name in the New York Times.

How it works: The league loser must eat as many waffles as they can in a 24-hour period. Each waffle consumed deducts an hour's stay.

Driving the news: I spent 14 hours at a Waffle House in Miami Gardens last Friday, eating 10 waffles before I was allowed to leave.

  • It's punishment for losing the Burnout Football League, a league my friends and I created in 2016.
  • Winner gets $1,000 and a trophy. Last-place finisher must endure "intestinal shame," as the Times calls it. (Our other idea was to bring an anime body pillow on a date.)

Here's how I did it: I got to Waffle House at 6:30am and started strong, eating five waffles by 10:30am.

  • I tried to avoid using syrup so I wouldn't consume extra calories.
  • Before noon, I was way too full and felt a weird tightness in my arm. It took me five more hours to eat waffle Nos. 6 and 7.

I passed the time chatting with the amazing Waffle House staff, who made me feel like part of the family. They let me camp out in the corner of the restaurant, where they'd check on me periodically.

  • "You're going to turn into a waffle," a manager told me.
  • Humanitarian visits from my wife and friends kept my spirits up. (Sommer found me wandering aimlessly in the parking lot with my hoodie on in 88-degree heat.)

I tried watching "Molly's Game" on my phone, but the music from the jukebox was too loud. (They played a lot of Drake and J. Cole; no Kendrick Lamar.)

  • I ate the last bite of my 10th waffle just before 8:30pm on a livestream with my friends as workers poured cleaning products on the floor to prepare for the next shift.

Threat level: "I'm never going to tell anybody to do this; it's not great for you," Florida International University dietetics and nutrition associate professor Catherine Coccia later told me, adding that the stunt is "somewhat harmless" as a one-off incident.

  • When you eat past the feeling of fullness, she said, your expanding stomach squeezes your organs, which can increase your heart rate and cause acid reflux.
  • "All of your organs start overworking because your body is trying to process this large volume of food."

Stunning stat: At 410 calories per waffle, I ended up eating 4,100 calories on the day — nothing but flour, butter and sugar.

Bottom line: I may suck at fantasy football, but this Waffle House will always be a Waffle Home to me.

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