Yesterday was July 4th. All weekend we saw great celebrations, parades, fireworks displays and BBQs. Everything we did, we did to honor America. We honored those brave men who fought to liberate us from the British Royal Empire, and we celebrated everyone who has fought for this country ever since. It all pales in comparison to what went on yesterday at Coney Island. Yesterday was the annual Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, and the World Witnessed another dominating performance by Joey Chestnut, perhaps the greatest hero in American history… or something like that? I mean, what’s more American than stuffing yourself with fatty hot dogs until you’re on the brink of vomiting, right? However, it’s not all stars and stripes and freedom fries on Coney Island these days…
You know what’s not American, though? Not letting someone eat 60 hot dogs just for the love of eating 60 hot dogs. It’s not American to ban someone from competing in an event they won six times in a row because they want to retain their ability to make money on their own. It’s also not American to remove a competitor from the wall of fame because they will no longer do what you want them to do. I am speaking, of course, about the great Takeru Kobayashi, and his banishment for refusing to sign up with Major League Eating.
Kobayashi, a native of Nagano, Japan, is probably the most famous professional eater in the world (sorry Joey Chestnut). According to his wikipedia page, Kobayashi is not only a former world record hot dog eater. He has also held records for eating the most pasta, hamburgers and meatballs. The guy is a jack of all trades. He’s a legend. He’s a remorseless eating machine (Simpsons, anyone?). Lately though, he’s been a man on the outside looking in. Especially at Coney Island.
Kobayashi is a former six time champion at Nathan’s. Those years he ate hundreds and hundreds of hot dogs, wowed his fans and basically gave competitive eating its first real “personality.” His trademarks include colorful and often crazily styled hair and flexing his six-pack abs in victory. Before him, the world of competitive eating was thought to be mostly run by big fat guys from Chicago with mustaches. It still probably mostly is, but now more and more little guys are coming to the forefront. So why was the MLE so quick to turn its back on the one the call “The Tsunami?”
Two years ago, Major League Eating decided that anyone who wanted to compete at Nathans had to be under contract with their organization. Now, I’m not gonna pretend I know the whole back story, or even really care what the back story behind that is, but that seems wrong. Since when do they own hot dog eating? When New Yorker Nathan Handwerker began selling his delicious franks in 1916, is this what he had in mind? I don’t think so, and i doubt Kobayashi thinks so either. In 2010, Kobayashi was banned from the contest, but showed up anyway. This led to his arrest for trying to charge the stage after the competition. This year, probably because getting arrested for protesting a hot dog eating contest is stupid, Kobayashi did not crash the contest.
Instead, he set up his own simultaneous contest at a Manhattan rooftop bar, complete with a satellite feed of the real contest in Coney Island. When Nathan’s contest began, so did Kobayashi’s. In the end, the “official” count was 69 hot dogs, which was enough to shatter the world record. Or was it? When George Shea (President of MLE) was informed of Kobayashi’s world record performance he said it was a farce. He then said:
“The champion of the world is crowned in Coney Island. Always has been, always will be. [Kobayashi] put a tin crown on his head and called himself king.”
Yes, George… the real King wears one of those stupid 1920s skimmer hats that people wore during the elections.
Maybe some day Kobayashi will fold and agree to sign with MLE. I personally have enjoyed his guerrilla assaults on the yearly July 4th tradition. I hope next year’s Kobayashi stunt is even more ridiculous. Maybe Ballpark Franks can get involved in this somehow. Until then, we at Jobu’s Rum support you Takeru. Hell, why don’t you come down to Connecticut, and I’ll buy you a hot dog. A plump, delicious, Ballpark Frank.
Here’s video of Kobayashi’s unrecognized record performance, for those who missed it:
featured image courtesy of: Mario Tama/Getty Images
chestnut image courtesy of: http://justjukie.i.ph
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