Jamie Loftus’ piece on competitive eating is wonderful goodie bag full of surprises. Sit down at the table and allow her to serve you up a platter full of fascinating and admirable characters who are using their profile to advance meaningful causes.

It’s mid-July, and by now, the professional eating world is well into its 51 weeks of annual obscurity.

Their introductions are carefully crafted WWE-grade nightmare fuel, announced as if each competitor is a god come down from the heavens to vacuum meat tubes down their gullets. The intros for these lesser known eaters are largely drowned out by color commentary about the main competitors—still, there they are, forming the outer edges of a Last Supper–style tableau, each with their own stats and training processes and very specific traumas.

What if I were to tell you these are, by far, the most interesting characters in the professional eating world?