Every year, when I think of the Fourth of July, there is only one true symbol of the festive day. You can have your fireworks, you can have your bald eagle, and you can have your backyard BBQ. I don’t want ’em. The only thing that makes my Fourth of July complete is watching a man house 69 hot dogs and waterlogged buns in 10 minutes. I want at Noon-o-clock sharp, the sounds of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” to slowly build in the background as our generation’s greatest orator, George Shea, rises on a scissor lift to greet the massive crowd on the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues in Coney Island. On that corner sits the Mecca of Mastication, Nathan’s Famous, a Coney Island landmark since 1916. And every July 4th, 20 masters of salivation and gurgitation will stand forth and show if they can handle one of America’s most time honored traditions, Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest.
*Tyler Thompson and I will be doing a live blog of the Hot Dog Eating Contest on the main page at 12:00 PM.*
The women’s competition will be at 10:50 on ESPN3. The Men’s Competition will air on ESPN3 at Noon. Thanks to Wimbledon (shakes fist) ESPN proper won’t air the contest until 3:00 PM. Whoever is playing in that match better win in straight sets…
The first Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog eating contest took place, according to legend, in 1916 as four immigrants had a hot dog eating contest to settle an argument on who was the most patriotic. While that story would possibly be the greatest story ever told, the first recorded contest took place in 1972, where american Jason Schechter ate 14 hot dogs in three-and-a-half minutes. His prize was a certificate for 40 more hot dogs. It did not become an annual event until 1978 where Manel Hollenback and Kevin Sinclair ate 10 hot dogs and buns in six-and-a-half minutes. Side note, Brian Cranston joked in a press conference that Walter White entered the 1978 Nathan’s Contest eating 38.5 dogs that year (which would have won by 28.5 dogs). The first female champion captured the crown in 1984 when Germany’s Birgit Felden won with 9.5 hot dogs over a 10 minute span. She is now has a doctorate…
The number of hot dogs consumed each year rose through the year 2000 where Japanese competitor Kazutoyo Arai took down the event and world record for hot dogs eaten that year, throwing down 25 1/8 hot dogs. The world, however, did not know what was in store in 2001 when a 128 lb. Japanese man named Takeru Kobayashi took the stage. Kobayashi, as he’s known, ate 50 hot dogs, smashing the previous record set just the year before. In second place that year was Eric “Badlands” Booker, who finished off 26 hot dogs. Kobayashi would reign supreme over the next five years including setting the record again in 2006 with a mark of 53 3/4 hot dogs (breaking his 2004 record of 53 1/2).
However, in 2007, a man by the name of Joey Chestnut brought the title back to America with a performance of 66 hot dogs in front of the Coney Island crowd.. Since 2007, Chestnut has won eight consecutive Nathan’s Famous Contests and now holds the World Hot Dog Eating Record with a tally of 69 dogs in 10 minutes. It is important to note that when Chestnut won in 2007 the time limit for the event was 12 minutes. In 2007, Chestnut was eating 5.5 dogs per minute (DPM), while in 2013 the California native ate 6.9 DPM.
One can not bring up Kobayashi without noting his bowing out of the competition in 2010. Major League Eating and the International Federation of Competitive Eating (IFOCE — the governing body of competitive eating) wanted the eating superstar to sign an exclusive contract that would keep him from competing in non-sanctioned events. He showed up to the 2010 event wearing a black Free Kobi shirt. He crashed the stage after the event, promptly getting arrested. He has since been banned from the events and his image has been taken off the wall of fame at Nathan’s Famous. In 2011, he held his own eating competition on a rooftop in New York, where he ate 69 hot dogs of his own.
In 2011, Major League Eating started putting on a Women’s Championship, as there were many women who wanted to shoot for the women’s eating record. Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas had been hanging with the men since 2003, even coming in 2nd place overall in the 2005 contest. Since the new women’s championship, she had won all three times, setting the women’s world record with 45 hot dogs in 10 minutes. However, newcomer Miki Sudo defeated Sonya Thomas for the first ever women’s title change, throwing down 34 hot dogs, while Thomas had 27.75.
The competitive eating world was turned on its ear in 2015 as “Megatoad” Matt Stonie defeated Joey Chestnut, who had won the competition for eight consecutive years. Will Chestnut reclaim his mustard yellow belt this year, or will this be the second year in the Stonie Dynasty?
Meet the Contestants
There are 20 competitors vying for the Mustard Yellow Title Belt (yep, that’s a thing). Here are a few of the top competitors to watch out for this year:
Joey “Jaws” Chestnut
Entering last year’s competition, Chestnut was the current, reigning and defending 8x Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest Champion. At the age of 32, he has a bachelors degree in civil engineering and even proposed to his girlfriend before competing in the 2014 Hot Dog Eating Contest Just two weeks before the July 4th battle this year, he ate 73.5 Nathan’s Famous hot dogs in 10 minutes. He is the #2 ranked eater in the world and holds over 30 World Eating Records, including certain ones set in recent years:
– 14.5lbs of Boysenberry Pie in 8 Minutes
– 14.5lbs of Burritos in 10 Minutes
– 103 Krystal Burgers in 8 Minutes
– 24lbs of Poutine in 10 Minutes
– 121 Twinkies in 6 Minutes
Matt “Megatoad” Stonie
At just 24, Stonie has taken the competitive eating game by storm, being the #1 Ranked Eater in the World. Last year he upset Joey Chestnut to win the Mustard Yellow Belt. In 2013, he defeated Joey Chestnut three times in Major League Eating Competitions. This is his fifth year in the Nathan’s Famous Contest, and holds these world eating records since his major title win last year:
– 200 Peeps in 5 Minutes
– 113 Silver Dollar Pancakes in 8 Minutes
– 10lbs of Spaghetti and Red Sauce in 10 Minutes
-69 Moon Pies in 8 Minutes
Miki Sudo popped on to the eating scene out of nowhere. On April 20, 2013, Sudo at 40 hot dogs in her Major League Eating debut, blowing the minds of onlookers. Since then she has become the #3 eater in the world, winning the women’s title at the July 4th event in 2014, housing 34 dogs in the rain soaked event. She looks to win her third straight in 2016, walking onto the stage also holding the world record in eating Kimchi with 8.5 lbs. eaten in six minutes.
Adrian “The Rabbit” Morgan
Morgan, out of New Orleans, enters his seventh consecutive Nathan’s Contest as the #4 Ranked eater in the world. He placed 5th in last year’s competition with 31 dogs (a two dog improvement from the year before). He won the Houston, TX qualifier at Tootsies, eating 39 hot dogs, more than last year on July 4th. At 33 years old, he holds the record for most hard boiled eggs eaten:
— 20 Hard Boiled Eggs in 84 Seconds
So there you have it. Some of the top names in the field, along with others will vie to set a new world record, having to eat more than 74.5 hot dogs on the stage on the corner of Surf and Stillwell.
I now leave you with one more bit of George Shea, introducing the competitors from last year’s contest, as only he can do it: