There’s this quote I think about around this time every year. It’s from Jason Fagone, author of the book Horseman of the Esophagus. In it, he chronicles the stories of professional eaters. I read it for a college class once. That’s a story for another time.
Anyway, Fagone once described professional eating like so. “An eating contest is basically the food equivalent of a car crash. It’s just hard for any human to look away.”
And the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog contest? Well, that’s “the biggest crash on the biggest road, on live TV.”
You probably won’t look away from that, either.
Last year, the freak show went off on the Fourth as usual. But competitors ate inside, without spectators, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Today, fans will return, but not to the corner of Surf and Stillwell. Instead, a few thousand will watch eaters gorge themselves a few blocks away at Maimonides Park — the minor league home for the Brooklyn Cyclones.
As for the actual competition, Miki Sudo, who has won seven straight women’s titles, recently announced that she would not compete because she is expecting her first child. Sudo set the women’s record for dogs consumed last year at 48.5. Now that she’s out, the women’s competition is more open than Kobayashi’s throat.
As for the men, there’s really one name to note: Joey Chestnut. Jaws set the men’s record in 2020, consuming 75 hot dogs in 10 minutes.
Chestnut is the clear favorite to win his 14th Mustard Belt. But can he break the world record he set in 2020 without the indoor comfort of A/C?
Vegas is skeptical. The over-under for Chestnut’s total is set at 73.5 dogs and (watered down) buns.
Whether or not he breaks his own world record is irrelevant. You know you’ll watch this car crash. And you’ll probably enjoy it, too.
The women’s event starts at 11:30am Eastern on ESPN3 (three, yes... three) because the “Worldwide Leader” would rather air SportsCenter on a holiday morning instead of showing female eaters on their main network. The men’s competition begins at noon Eastern on... you guessed it: ESPN.