Monday, July 7, 2008
It was everything that was good, and everything awful, about America. It was the 2008 Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, the gluttonous showcase of over-consumption held each July 4th since 1916 at the original Nathan's outlet on Coney Island in New York City. The goal: eat as many hotdogs as possible in a 10 minute span. The dogs come plain on a bun (sorry, no mustard or slaw allowed.) The contestants: some of the biggest eaters from around the world who were winners of any from among 23 world-wide qualifying events during the previous year, and many of them remarkably small-framed folks. The two favorites were the Japanese wunderkind 'Kobayashi', the 6-time champion, and last year's winner and sentimental favorite, Vallejo California's own Joey Chestnut (shown in pic after winning the '07 event). Kobayashi started out slow as Chestnut bolted out to a lead in the early going. Kobayashi began to make his move around the halfway point and pulled slowly ahead, maintaining about a one-dog lead down the stretch. In the final seconds, Chestnut gobbled his way into a tie, and as the buzzer sounded it was Kobayashi and Chestnut well ahead of the field in a dead heat. Their 59 dogs eaten was below the record mark of 66 set by Chestnut last year, and facilitated a 5-dog 'eatoff' tie-breaker. Whomever devoured the final five the fastest would be the champ. Chestnut used his patented 'chipmunk' style of eating to perfection in the overtime as Kobayashi seemed already mentally defeated, and so it was Joey Chestnut repeating as the Nathan's Hotdog Eating champion. Kobayashi and his supporters felt that he was cheated out of victory in the regulation time, and vow to return in 2009 with a vengeance. I actually sat and watched this spectacle for the first time ever, as it was broadcast with a full one-hour telecast on ESPN, and I have to admit that it was highly entertaining. When next Independence Day rolls around, find a TV set around noon time and tune in for a real treat. Only in America.