Wednesday, July 04, 2007


Today, Brooklyn was in the eye of the media hurricane, with Joey Chestnut defeating six-time champ Takeru “Koby” Kobayashi in the annual Nathan’s Famous July Fourth International Hot Dog Eating Championship, bringing the coveted “Mustard Belt” back to the United States.

The contest, an institution since 1916, was held at the corner of Surf and Stillwell in Coney Island, home of the original Nathan’s Famous hot dog stand. An estimated 1.5 million viewers watched the action on ESPN as Joey Chestnut devoured a mind-boggling 66 frankfurters in twelve action-packed minutes, a new world’s record. Defending champion Kobayashi made a more than respectable showing, scarfing 63 dogs despite suffering from the aftereffects of a wisdom tooth extraction. In the final moments, however, Kobayashi fell victim to the dreaded “reversal,” barfing our a few mouthfuls before regaining his rhythm at the end.

There’s something quintessentially American about eating contests. The contestants in the Nathan’s competition are all veteran fressers, having stuffed themselves with all manner of nutriments: Spam™, birthday cake, pig’s feet, matzoh balls, pie, you name it. Where else on the planet is food available in such abundance that we can turn its Excessive Consumption into an athletic competition, complete with media overkill?

“Let’s get a replay on Kobayashi blowing lunch, Chris!”

Not for me. I lurves me a Nathan’s Famous hot dog, and I’ve consumed ’em right at the source in Coney Island. But 66 in one frantic sitting? Naw. My ass is fat enough without my eating unto the point of pain, whether it be hot dogs, blueberry pie, ice cream, or yummy melty stinky cheese.

Nitpickers and naysayers will cluck their tongues, saying, “What about all the hungry people in our inner cities, in sub-Saharan Africa, in the teeming slums of Southeast Asia?” Well, nobody said the distribution of food couldn’t stand some improvement. But we must live in the world as we find it, even as we do what we can to make it better. And what could lift the spirits of the poverty-stricken hungry people of the world more than knowing there is plenty of food available for the taking? Only thing you have to do is get past the regional qualifiers – and then it’s Free Hot Dogs, All U Can Eat While The Camera’s Running!

Meanwhile, let’s hear it for America! Let’s give a rousing cheer for the Western capitalist economy, an economy that generates enough of a food surplus that we can indulge this sort of narrischkeit. And pass me the mustard.

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