With stomachs a-growing, and everyone telling you have a good Fourth, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. Yes, it’s time once again for the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, and One Foot Tsunami is pleased to continue its tradition of providing coverage. As fans will know, in recent years, the live hot dog eating contest has been bumped off ESPN in favor of Wimbledon coverage. This year, the contest has been further marginalized, with ESPN 2 opting to show a World Cup quarterfinals game. Soccer, pfft. Sadly, it seems that the beautiful game of competitive eating is just not getting the respect it deserves. We won’t let that ruin our fun, however. To do so would be downright un-American. Let’s get into it.
The Women’s Contest
While a few women had previously competed alongside the men, in 2011, a separate women’s division was introduced. It features its own Pepto Pink belt, and a $20,000 prize for the winner, which matches the men. Since the introduction of the women’s category, eater Sonya Thomas has dominated, winning three consecutive titles and setting a women’s world record of 45 HDBs (that’s hot dogs and buns for you newcomers) in 2012. Nevertheless, despite putting up numbers that trump many of the men, Ms. Thomas and the rest of the women have always been marginalized. Their contest occurs earlier and is then ignominiously edited down for brief inclusion with the men’s coverage.
This year was perhaps the worst showing yet, with only the results being provided. It was actually quite a competition, one which could be viewed on ESPN 3 at 11:15 AM. Rookie eater Miki Sudo challenged Sonya Thomas to a hard-fought match. While Ms. Thomas’s world record remains, her streak of championships has come to an end. The rookie trumped Thomas, chowing down 34 HDBs to come away victorious. According to Ms. Sudo, though she was thrilled to win, “weather conditions got in the way” of a new world record. Perhaps next year.
Notes and Quotes
With the women out of the way in perfunctory fashion, ESPN was able to focus on the men’s competition. It’s clear this is where they believe the draw lies. They focused their reporting heavily on All-American champion Joey “Jaws” Chestnut, who stated before the event that he’d had “no breakfast today, not much yesterday, I’m empty and loose right now”. “Empty and loose”. Gross.
In addition to the scent of hot dogs, love was in the air today. ESPN showed what might be the absolute worst sporting event-based marriage proposal of all time, as Joey Chestnut proposed to his girlfriend Neslie Ricasa on stage in front of the crowd. Ms. Ricasa must have just been swept off her feet by the romance of it all, because she said yes, after which she stood front and center to watch Joey compete and be showered by his run-off. It’s well-known that 95% of marriages that begin with a ballpark proposal end in divorce, but I believe Joey and Neslie can beat those odds.
After airing the proposal, ESPN had a Sport Science segment entitled “The Science of Competitive Eating” which showed what 69 HDBs look like inside a human being. Even though it used a dummy instead of a real person, the segment somehow managed to be even more vile than seeing the real competitors. Have a look at these images:
An empty stomach.
A stomach with 69 HDBs.
In a word, Barvd 🙊. After that sickening display, it was time to introduce the contestants and start the match. As always, MC George Shea and his brother and commentator Rich Shea were in fine form. Here are some of their best quotes.
Describing how competitor Yasir Salem’s won a world burping championship:
…with a 16 second burp described by judges as ‘both mournful and optimistic’.
From the introduction for anti-health food eater Brian Dudzinski:
If you believe in science, than you have to believe processed food is superior to something someone dug out of the dirt. He has spent ten years maintaining a boycott against any healthy food…The closest he has ever been to a goji berry is a Cheeto.
On up-and-coming eater Matt Stonie:
Youth is a hunter. It hunts us all. And this young man, only 22 years of age, is hunting the greatest prize in all of history: Joey Chestnut, and the coveted mustard yellow belt.
Joey Chestnut’s pitch-perfect introduction, in its entirety, including an incongruous portion of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” wherein Roger Daltry sings that he has “fought for [his] meals”:1:
Only moments from her womb, and before she even placed him to her breast, his mother held him close, and whispered in his ear. She said ‘You are of my flesh, but you are not mine own. Fate is your father [sic] and you belong to the people, for you shall lead the army of the free.’ And she held him high and the finger of power that destroys the unworthy descended, and it touched him on the forehead, and it anointed him the champion of the world, of now, and of always, of the fourth of July of the nation, of the free, under god!
Referring to Stonie’s chewing method, in topical fashion:
He’s got this Luis Suarez-type bite, which has no place in the game of fútbol, but it is welcome here at Coney Island.
Inappropriately describing Chestnut’s rhythm for eating:
Two meats, one bun.
Explaining the difficulty of eating the buns:
The buns are weighty, they’re like the hills of the Pyrenees for a Tour De France rider.
And finally, explaining the significance of Chestnut potentially winning his eighth-straight title:
I am not given to hyperbole, but if this happens, it’d be the greatest achievement in the history of man.
The Men’s Results
The men’s battle came down to the wire, and was one of the most dramatic in some time. Youngster Matt “Megatoad” Stonie defeated Joey Chestnut in several recent eating contests, and he was pitched as the challenger coming in. Sure enough, Stonie matched Chestnut throughout the contest, with the two battling back and forth for the lead in exciting and grotesque fashion. As Joey said in his post-contest interview, “it was just a dog fight the entire time”. Ba-dum ching.
Ultimately, while the kid had a whole lot in him, he didn’t have quite enough. Though Matt managed to down 56 HDBs, Joey powered through 61 HDBs to capture his eighth title. Megatoad is an exciting contender who just might end the champion’s run next year, but 2014 belonged to Joey Chestnut.
See For Yourself
If you want to see the full contest on TV, it’s airing at 2 PM on ESPN 2, and again at 6. Following that first TV broadcast, you could watch the Yankees take on the Twins at 3 PM. Alternately, you could do the right thing and flip to ESPN Classic. There, you’ll get a chance to see the 2007 Hot Dog Eating Contest, where Jaws put America on his back, and took down Takeru Kobayashi of Japan.
While British tennis and foreign “football” have ruled the airwaves today, there is hope for the future, as ESPN recently signed a 10-year deal to continue televising the hot dog eating contest. We can only hope they’ll afford it its due respect in future years. For now, this site will carry the torch.
Here’s an archive of the full introduction: