A great tradition continues this July 4th at Nathan's Famous Frankfurters on Coney Island in New York City, as the 94th International Hot Dog Eating Contest -- the Super Bowl of competive overeating -- takes place Saturday. And American Joey Chestnut comes in again as the favorite, with his rival Kobayashi ready to end Chestnut's two-year championship reign.
Chestnut broke the world record at the 2007 Hot Dog Eating Contest, inhaling 66 hot dogs in twelve minutes and snuffing out Kobayashi's seven-year reign as champion. Last year Chestnut won again in a thriller, the first "overtime eatoff" result in the 93-year history of this iconic event.
"Gas is approaching $5 a gallon, tomatoes are unsafe to eat, but the Mustard Yellow Belt is on American soil," said Richard Shea, President of Major League Eating after the 2008 contest, in a quote that I guess maybe made sense this time one year ago. "Joey Chestnut is an agent of change."
Richard Shea, President of Major League Eating? The MLE? So what's your collective bargaining agreement look like, MLE?
And heck yes Vegas is laying odds and taking wagers on this event. Bodog currently has Chestnut as the oh-so-slight favorite, with 20-to-31 on odds. Kobayashi is just behind at 21-to20 against, with Tim "Eater X" Janus also in the mix at 23-to-2 against. The field of other eaters offers 13-to-1 odds.
Tim "Eater X" Janus competes in these things wearing Ultimate Warrior-style face paint. This "sport" just gets awesomer and awesomer the more you learn about it.
This is no gimme for Joey "Jaws" Chestnut, despite his winning the last two consecutive Nathan's contests. Kobayashi won their most recent face-to-face competition, a P'zone eating contest to see who could eat the most of the bizarre Pizza Hut concoctions. But this Nathan's Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest is the mother of all annual eating events, and whomever wins is regarded for that year as the greatest eater on earth.
The event will be broadcast live nationally on ESPN and online at ESPN360, the morning of Saturday July 4. There is even a 90-minute pre-game broadcast.
But if you're watching in high-definition, you probably want to make sure you're not trying to eat breakfast while you're watching this sort of thing.
Joe Kukura is a freelance writer who has finally found a professional sport he could be good at.