You're probably going to make fun of us here, but we consider competitive eating a sport. We do. We never had until we worked with writer Larry Getlen on his story "The Champions Of Consumption" for The Black Table, our old stomping grounds. The two-part series looked at the history of competitive eating, how it started as a whim and sideshow, until Takeru Kobayashi showed up at the year Nathan's Coney Island hot-dog-eating contest five years ago and obliterated the all-time record and firmly establishing himself as the sport's Babe Ruth. Afterwards, everyone started to take everything much more seriously, training, trying out new techniques, working in a newly legitimized medium. But still no one has beaten Kobayashi, the measuring stick.
That could be about to change. Joey Chesnut, a student at San Jose State, just took down 50 hot dogs in 12 minutes yesterday, setting the American record, just 3 1/2 behind Kobayashi's all-time mark. (We loved Chesnut's comment aftewards; "My brother is in the National Guard in Iraq and there will be a lot of people behind me." We think this is more of a sport than most people do, but we still have a hard time thinking a soldier in Iraq is getting that fired up about his brother back in the States stuffing his face like a pig.)
Anyway, July 4 is the yearly Nathan's contest, which Kobayashi has never lost. It's ON!