Yesterday morning in Coney Island, thousands of cheering people crowded the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenue. But these cheers were not for independence—no, they were for something greater. Something meatier. Something log-shaped.
Hot dogs—more specifically, lots of hot dogs being shoveled down many gullets at the same time within a ten-minute period. This is the scene of Nathan's International Hot Dog Eating Contest, the oldest (since 1916) and most famous eating competition in America.
Joey Chestnut garnered first place for the third year in a row, at the same time breaking the world record by eating 68 hot dogs, or HDBs (shorthand for hot dog and buns in the competitive eating world), in ten minutes. Takeru Kobayashi came in second with a still-nauseatingly-high 64 and a half hot dogs. In third place was Patrick Bertoletti, who ate a mere 55 hot dogs. And let's not forget about the female champion Sonya Thomas, who set a new women's world record by chowing down 41 hot dogs. (For the full results, visit nathansfamous.com.)
I just summed up the whole contest for you. Somewhat. If you don't think you'll ever make it to the big day, here a more detailed look at the contest with lots of photos, after the jump.
If you want a decent view, you have to get there earlier than around 10:30 when the above photo was taken. The contest doesn't start until 12:30—die-hard fans are ready to endure hours of standing to see their heroes in action. Some of them came wearing hot dog-related costumes or wielding homemade posters. My favorite poster said, "Pandas for KOBAYASHI."
There's pre-competition entertainment in case pure anticipation of watching mass hot-dog-face-stuffing isn't enough to keep your attention. One of my friends said the entertainment was better this year than last. There was live music, world-class trampoline jumpers, performers from Ringling Bros. Circus (including some dachshunds; of course, that's what I took a photo of), a kid's Hot Dog Eating Contest where the contestants tried to eat as neatly as possible, cheerleaders who shot T-shirts into the audience, the Coney Island Strongman who lay on a bed of nails while holding an anvil and getting hit with sledgehammers, and more.
The two women of the contest, Juliet Lee and Sonya Thomas, were brought out to a cheering crowd. Rock on, slim Asian women!
A special award for gas guzzling (not the real name; that may have been the "Carbon Footprint Award") was giving to the man who drove the most in the past year to attend hot dog eating contests.
Judges and contestants finally took to the stage minutes before the contest was to begin, with Chestnut and Kobayashi in the center. A few minutes before, a giant screen to the side of the stage showed Chestnut and Kobayashi sitting next to each other backstage looking about as excited as they would be if they were waiting at the DMV. There didn't seem to be any pre-contest jitters; it was just another year of eating an inhumanly large amount of hot dogs.
And they're off!
In the first 40 seconds, Chestnut and Kobayashi down seven hot dogs. About a minute later, Chestnut eats another nine hot dogs, Kobayashi another eight. (This is about the time when any desire I had to eat a hot dog has disappeared.) Four minutes in, they're in the 30s. Seven minutes in, Chestnut is in the lead with 53 hot dogs, with Kobayashi at 50. Chestnut hits the 60 mark with one and a half minutes left.
With two seconds left, Chestnut and his belly of 68 hot dogs gives a fist pump of victory, subsequently followed by the slump over of, "Oh god, there are 68 hot dogs in my belly."
Chestnut, draped in an American flag, raises his first place trophy to the cheering crowd.
Kobayashi may have finished second place with his 64 and a half hot dogs, but it's still his personal best. Here he shows off his distended belly to his fans.
In an interview with ESPN right after his win, Chestnut says he had the capacity to eat more than 70 hot dogs. Maybe next year. And what was for dinner that night? "Probably a Cobb salad. Something with ranch on it."