Tuesday, July 03, 2007

2007 Nathans Hotdog Championship

Originally uploaded by steakbellie.
Tomorrow is the biggets event in Competitive Eating. While not the best run (I'd vote for Krystal Burger) or the most money, it remains the most visible contest in CE. This is the contest to be in. Eaters pay their own way to go to up to 3 different Qualifiers to reach the finals. The Finals are held accross the country (and world) and it can be expensive to find one that isnt loaded with top competitors.

If you watch it on ESPN, the coverage should start at 12 noon and show lots of background and intros. Most of the contest will cover Joey Chestnut and Takeru Kobayashi's rivalry. I also expect a subplot pitting America's top 2 female Eaters Sonya Thomas and Juliet Lee at odds.

There are many wonderful people at this table besides these four, and despite not getting any camera time or even having a shot in hell of winning, they will push themselves as hard as they ever have. Prize Money is finally being offered but only for the top 5 finishers. I think they should offer prize money down to the last Eater for the finals, so that there is incentive to come in 11th instead of 12th...otherwise why bother? An eater named Jed Donahue only ate 1 HotDog last year in the finals. I was angry at first but then respected what he did...why hurt yourself when there is zero at stake? I think that helped start the rallying cry amongst the Eaters for actual prize money.

Takeru Kobayashi lives in Japan and doesnt speak English. He comes to the US 2 or 3 times a year to compete in some of our contests. He is revered by the other eaters for his accomplishments and for his insistance that CE be treated like a real sport. Kobayashi himself treats it like a Professional sport, and now most of the Eaters emulate his fitness and training.

Three things happened this year that have drummed up a wave of excitement about this contest.

Kobayashi's Mother passed away in March. There was speculation on a Japanese Blog somewhere that Koby was depressed and not even training anymore. Someone translated it roughly into English and the American Eaters gabbed like School Girls.

Joey Chestnut ate 59.5 HotdogsEveryone but the Champion must requalify each year to make the finals. The old record was 53.75 set by Kobayashi himself at the finals. Joey did this at his qualifier this year. Once again HUGE speculation amongst the eaters, Kobayashi has NEVER been beaten in America, Joey has risen to Koby's level, can Koby rise even further or has his capacity peaked?

You may have heard about this a few months ago when it happened, it was all over the news and a big deal in my neighborhood, as Joey came out partying with us after the WingBowl. Everybody loves him now.

A story broke that Koby has Lockjaw Another rumor based on something written in Japanese on a blog. While it may be based on a seed of truth, it's been pushed very heavily to generate excitement over wheather he will rise to meet Joey's challenge. Idont know any of the true facts here, but I expect
koby to compete and prepared to win.

Here's what Major Leauge Eating (the IFOCE) has to say about the contest.

"Since 2004, ESPN has covered the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest at 12:00 noon on July 4th. This year's contest may well be the most highly anticipated matchup in the event's storied 92-year history. Takeru Kobayashi, the Japanese eating sensation who has won the contest for the past six years, has finally met his match. Joey Chestnut, a baby-faced boy-next-door from San Jose, California, has accomplished the impossible - not just breaking Kobayashi's record of 53.75 hot dogs and buns (HDBs), but shattering it, downing 59.5. American competitive eating fans sense that the coveted Mustard Yellow International Belt will finally return to American shores. This year, Nathan's Famous is putting up $20,000 in prize money to inspire and drive the competitors to their full eating abilities."

Here's the line-up and where they qualified (HDB stands for 'HotDog and Buns'):

Takeru Kobayashi, 53.75 HDB's, 2006 Champion
Always the favorite. He will be sitting in the center of the table. I've never competed agianst him or even met him.

Joey Chestnut, 59.5 HDB's, Tempe, AZ
A great guy out of San Jose. Only 23 years old, and is the only person ever to rise to Koby's level. He's eaten 2x of what I've eaten and more in some competitions. He looks like he's in serious pain when he eats, and you can damn sure bet he is willing to push himself when you and I would stop. When I first heard that he ate 59.5, I was so stunned that I stopped training for two weeks. Joey will sit next to Koby. My favorite Joey moment was when he drank a gallon of milk in 43 seconds to get into the WingBowl.

Pat Bertoletti, 46 HDB's, Las Vegas, NV
A culinary student from Chicago. You'll recognize him by his Mohawk haircut and headphones. Another favorite in my town for partying with my friends after WingBowl, hopefully he'll get some respect from ESPN, I mean 46 Hotdogs????? I cant help but smile when I see Pat. Afew weeks ago he ate 15.25 lbs of Strawberry Shortcake in 10 minutes.

Tim Janus, 41.5 HDB's, E. Hartford, CT
Tim paints a facemask on his face for events that is typically color coded to the event itself. A good guess will be Red White and Blue for the forth of July. The facemask is remeniscent of 'The Ultimate Warrioir' in Wrestling. He's been credited with many innovations in CE and I that comes from a Scientists curiosty about the world. Hypothesis, Test.
MTV has featured him in a documentary and surprisingly he's somewhat reserved and quiet in mixed company. He's always said nice stuff to me.
Women LOVE him.

Chip Simpson, 39.25 HDB's, Sunrise, FL
Chip just earned a doctorate in Physical Therapy this year! (Mom, How bad could this be if a Doctor is doing it?) Chip is built like an athlete, and has a stone face when competing. He wants to win. Everytime. I expect Chip to eat over 45 dogs at the table.

Sonya Thomas, 36 HDB's, Philadelphia, PA
Probably the second most important person to Competitive Eating. Sonya only weighs 100lbs but can eat more than 5 men. People who watch her eat NEVER forget what they saw. She is sweet and friendly when away from the table. They call her 'The Black Widow' My favorite stunt of hers was when she ate 65 hardbpoiled eggs in 6 minutes!

Rich LeFevre, 34 HDB's, San Francisco, CA
Rich is a retired Accountant who lives in LasVegas with the lovely Carlene. He's probably the only guy here that doesnt even train. He's in his Sixties and is always a fan favorite. Probably only weighs 130lbs. They call him 'The Locust'

Bob Shoudt, 32 HDB's, West Chester, PA
Bob is the best Eater out of Philadelphia and PA for that matter. He's always been kind and encouraging to me and Wing Kong. I'm always impressed at how he can do this at such a high level and still be a family guy. (he's the first one listed here that has children that I am aware of) Just my fooling around with this sport has proven stressful on the family, so it speaks alot about the support he gets from his wife and children to do this for 3+ years. They call him 'Humble Bob'

Hall Hunt, 28.75 HDB's, Charlotte, NC
Hall is possibly the proudest Florida Gator you'll find. A year ago I would have told you that he was about my level and somebody I could beat on a good day. His improvement to 28.75, made that claim pretty hard to live up to. Hall listens to the soundtrack of 'Repo Man' continuously prior to competeting. I dont get it.

Arturo Rios, 27.5 HDB's, New York, NY
'The Natural' grew up a couple of towns away from me in New Jersey. He's a father of three, and really is a natural Eater. Two weeks ago he ate 21 against me at the Molly Pitcher Qualifier. A week later he improved to 27.5 whatever....

Pat Philbin, 27 HDB's, Cranbury, NJ
Pat is one of the few Big Guys at the table. Watch how he eats, he starts out slow, and keeps the same pace as all the sprinters get full and stop. He's a comedian and has a large fan-base from being on the 'Opie and Anthony' radio show.

Erik Denmark, 26.5 HDB's in regulation, 3.5 in OT, Flushing, NY
I know Erik only through email as he lives in Seattle and we dont go to much of the same contests. Like Hall, I was sure I could beat him on a good day. He improved so much it would have to be a VERY good day. Like Chip Simpson he seems to have mental toughness and I would not be too surprised (only jealous) to see him break 30.

Juliet Lee, 26 HDB's, Norfolk, VA
Juliet's two daughters and her husband travel with her to all of her competitions. She's been doing this less than a year and has already made a huge impact. I dont know why there arent more women competitors, but I'm grateful to have her at the table. You'll remember she beat me at the contest I went to in Myrtle Beach a few months back. Look for them to possibly seat her next to Sonya, so they can stoke the rivalry.

Crazy Legs Conti, 24 HDB's, Bloomington, MN
A special person to CE, Crazy Legs has been around for more than 6 years, in a sport that wears people out in 2 or 3 years. He has competed in nearly every type of food and holds or has held records of all types. I appreciate his wit and am always impressed by his ability to talk on camera. There's a documentary about his life that played at the TriBecca film festival, and I believe that it has just gone on sale as a DVD.

Dale Boone, 21 HDB's, Atlanta, GA
I've never met Dale, but he's said nasty things to many people I respect. He plays the badguy, and is a loudmouth. He wears a Coonskin hat and rings a big bell. A positive thing I can say is that he isnt afraid to sign his name to mean comments, when others just post anonymously.

Allen Goldstein, Avg. of 25.33 HDB's, Wildcard
An 'Old School' Eater out of New York. One of the first people to prove that you dont have to be a fat-ass to do this at a professional level. Allen is built like a tank, and has worked hard year after year to get his numbers this high.

Tim Brown, Avg. of 24.67 HDB's, Wildcard
I dont know a damned thing about Tim other than he's from Chicago. I hope to meet him this year.

So there's alittle about the people at the table. I will try to add links to their photos for the ones that I have. All of them are very interesting!

I will be watching (and feeling left out) from home with Wing Kong, and we will be eating Hotdogs and yelling at the damned TV with a bunch of kids and barking dogs. Enjoy!


Leonesse said...

Thank you for this. I find it very interesting.

Mega Munch said...

Aww come on Eric. No predictions? I agree that this year's contest has been the most publicized Nathan's ever. I can't wait. I was a coin toss away from deciding whether to go out there and watch in person again, but I didn't. Instead I'll be grilling Nate's dogs on the grill and watching with some friends.

steakbellie said...

I predicted that someone would break 60 Hamburgers at Krystals last year! 3 People broke it and one almost hit 100. Sure I was right but I was so way off.

You're a superfan like me, so maybe you have some understanding of my delema, I want soooo many of these people to win or at least hit their goal, that the truth is clouded from my eyes.

I predict that Koby is 100% and that someone will eat 64HDB's. Now I'm doomed to watch them eat 100....

Anonymous said...

so, does this mean you mean you didn't make it in?? What's the story, I last heard you were going down to eat in your suit. What happened?? Come on man. Bob

katrocket said...

This pre-show intro was quite thorough and entertaining. I think ESPN should hire you to do colour commentary on the contest, in the kilt of course. You have charisma.

katrocket said...

P.S. - Yeah, Eater X is da bomb.

steakbellie said...

That was a qualifier in NJ and just I made it. Luckily I didnt have to eat in the suit, that would have been too hot and messy plus I needed it to be clean for all day meetings afterwards.

I didnt win that qualifier and so I didnt make it to todays finals.

Jeremy said...

Do you consider this a sport when millions die from basic malnutrition, and we waste such food for "sport"? Sorry, no interest in watching some one stuff there mouth to win a plaque while people in this country lack basic meals..

Steve Caratzas said...

US and A!

MsAPhillips said...

Sixty-six downed and no "reversal".
Just pure win.