I don’t get a lot of fan mail. (Just check the featured letter on page 20.) But I do get the occasional thank you e-mail, or well-reasoned objection to something we’ve printed, or earnest correspondence from a reader in jail. Rarely have I gotten the kind of note that appeared in my in-box on May 19. It was from Sean McCarthy, otherwise known as the Cincinnati Strongman, who Justin Williams profiles in this issue. McCarthy was happy that we were publishing a story about him, but he also made an impassioned case for why he deserved to be on our cover instead of some tasty looking hot dogs. Actually, impassioned doesn’t really do it justice; this was a heartfelt rallying cry that crescendoed to a killer summation: “On the cover, food sells. I understand this. [But] hot dog’s G-ma isn’t going to be proud. Mine is. Hot dog’s family isn’t going to be surprised. Mine will. Hot dog’s mother-in-law isn’t going to see the fruits of its labor of countless hours at the gym. Mine will. Hot dog [doesn’t] have a lift on July 14th. Hot dog’s wife won’t be proud. Mine will. Hot dog’s twins won’t look at a framed copy and want to be great in life against any of life’s obstacles. Mine will. Hot dog [isn’t] going to shed some tears knowing how far [it’s] come in life. I will.”
I read that and thought: Boo-yah! Case closed. As Williams points out in his piece, McCarthy fervently believes that if he can see it in his mind, he can hold it in his hand. And he had clearly visualized himself on our cover.
And yet, the cover had been shot. And the hot dogs looked pretty darn tasty. And of course there’s a long held but totally unscientific belief that food sells better than almost anything on a magazine cover—even a strapping mountain of a man hoisting two very large NASCAR tires above his head.
I let McCarthy know where I stood. He sent me one more friendly entreaty, and when I told him I was committed to the hot dogs, he wrote back: “No hard feelings friend. I figured I would just try again. One of these days it will happen.” I have no doubt. And when that day comes, will folks remember the story Justin Williams wrote about the strongman with the heart of gold? I don’t know about Hot Dog, but I will.