NOTHING QUITE LIKE wandering out to get the morning paper and seeing yourself at the top of the front page, shoving a handful of nachos down your throat.

Then there was the three-column picture inside Thursday's paper showing me, tongue hanging out in concentration, trying to land a hot dog like an airplane on my comrade Pat Craig's hat — which, by the way, made him look almost dignified. The hat, not the hot-dog airplane. The lesson is that, if you're going to stuff food down your pipe in public, always wear a brimmed hat. Especially if you're in any danger of someone placing pork on your head.

As you read this, I'm on my way to purchase a brimmed hat, as I may be a changed man.

I figured there'd be photos documenting the carnage. After all, we took a photographer with us as Pat, Eric Louie and I took on the Oakland A's new and wonderfully disgusting all you-can-eat section at McAfee Coliseum. I just didn't know they'd look like that. It brought the whole seminauseating experience back. Suddenly I didn't want breakfast.

This is no fault of the Oakland A's. It's a great idea to charge people $35 to sit in seats that were otherwise off-limits last year. Food is society's quiet enticer. We base holidays around food. Billions in business deals are done by people chewing at the same time. The first decision we make when there's any kind of important event in our lives usually revolves around a three-word quandary: Beef or chicken?

We treat the term "all-you-can-eat" as if it's the equivalent of finding a winning lottery ticket under a couch cushion. Never mind that we usually pay for it. That somehow translates into "free." Either that, or it becomes a challenge to cheat the house out of as much food as we can eat without throwing up.

Which, I now remember, just doesn't feel good anymore.

The A's haven't prospered in a small, two-team market for 40 years without being business-savvy. They know some people's eyes are bigger than their stomachs.

It was a learning experience. I now know that 40-year-old men are no longer built to eat seven hot dogs, two orders of nachos and five Cokes in a sitting. It dawned on me while I walked to the car, feeling like a cow walking upright for the first time.

Hot dogs and I used to be great friends. That was back in the days when I had the metabolism to inhale an extra-large pizza, bounce out of my chair and start searching for dessert. Which sometimes was a bacon cheeseburger.

One doesn't think about that at 19. Gone are the days of opening a pound-and-a-half package of hamburger, dividing it into quarters and cooking lunch.

can't imagine how my mom didn't need a second job to feed me. I couldn't be more thankful to have all girls. At least until I get the phone bill.

Unfortunately, the Coliseum's third deck called to me like a challenge. Especially once we added Eric, a competitive eater, to the mix.

I could keep up with this guy, I thought. He's about as thick as one of my legs. I went down for my first round of food, modestly ordering a hot dog, nachos and a Coke.

The person behind the counter stood there waiting. Then she pointed to the sign that said something about a four-item maximum.

"You got one more coming," she said.

"Of course I do," I mumbled to myself, ordering another dog. "I don't have to take that."

So started the meat and cheese overloading.

At one point I realized they'd provided us a baseball game to watch while we ate. Well, that was sure nice of all these guys, I thought.

That's when I started feeling weird about the whole experience, being a devout lover of the game for almost as long as I'd liked food.

I think I'm sold — on buying a first deck ticket next time and paying for my food. And leaving the photographer out of it.

Reach Tony Hicks at 925-952-2678 or thicks@bayareanewsgroup.com. Read his blog, "Insert Foot," at www.ibabuzz.com/insertfoot.