Today is the celebrated Independence Day here in the United States of America. Today will be a day of summer fun, barbecues, and a celebration in honor of the patriots who freed us from the tyranny across the great pond known as… tea time. One of the greatest traditions on Independence Day here in New York City is the annual Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest. The contest has it’s origins in an impromptu contest in 1916 between 4 immigrants. Reportedly, an Irishman won by scarfing down 13 of the dogs.
The Yellow Mustard Belt spent a solid 6 years (2001-2006) firmly in the hands of Takeru Kobayashi from Japan. After a six year drought, the Yellow Mustard Belt was finally brought home to the United States last year, in 2007, by Joey Chestnut, who consumed 66 hot dogs as compared to Kobayashi‘s 63. Finally, the Yellow Mustard Belt was back in the United States! Granted, the win was slightly marred by the assertion that Kobayashi had a case of jawthritis he was still healing from… and therefore not supposedly at 100%.
This year… Kobayashi is coming back to try and regain the championship. His return to the event though is once again steeped in controversy. Kobayashi is the ONLY competitor this year who did not earn his place at the table by winning a regional qualifier, as chronicled in The Brooklyn Paper article. He has, according to Major League Eating, received a ”Sponsorship Exemption” for the event. Why would they exempt the FORMER champion but yet make the reigning champion qualify?
Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs, in a quest for an uber hyped event, has become the Great American Traitor. By allowing Kobayashi an option to not compete in a qualifying event, the honor of earning a seat at the Table of Champions has been diminished. Now there has been speculation about whether or not Kobayashi will even mount a serious challenge… since his last competitive eating event was last October and he still appeared afflicted with jawthritis. Witnesses reported that his jaw seized and he finished the contest by swallowing the food whole.
Personally… I think its a ruse. I think Kobayashi is coming in gums blazing with a vengeance… and he’s about to turn Coney Island into the Pearl Harbor of the Competitive Eating World. I think Kobayashi is going to take the Yellow Mustard Belt off US soil again, leaving the wreckage of our finest American eaters in his wake. I think we have been betrayed for the sake of hype by an institution that prides itself as being based in Americana.
This is my prediction… and hopefully I’m wrong. We’ll know the truth at noon EDT when the contest is held live on ESPN.