Kobayashi for Seven in a Row?

Lichtenstein’s Hot Dog; D’you see this one in MoMA, Dave?

If you have been watching ESPN at all in the last 48 hours, you know that July 4 marks the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. I’m a vegetarian, so you can imagine why I find the whole premise of the competition repulsive. However, all humane issues aside, I watched a rerun of last year’s competition on TV this morning and found it more disgusting than I ever could have imagined.

Competitive hot dog eating is more or less like any other sport in most senses; these guys and girls practice every day, get stoked to compete, and then focus really hard, doing everything they can to better the competition. But unlike other sports, when you watch competive eating, you don’t seem to be watching professionals doing what they love – you see what appears to be some type of painful masochistic exercise.
The competition lasts 12 minutes and the winner is simply the person who manages to down the most hot dogs and buns, but the human body is simply not made to handle 50 hot dogs – about 18,000 calories, according to Nathan’s – in one sitting. Thus, by minute six, the competitive eaters start to vomit up hot dogs. But because vomiting begets disqualification, they have to hold back the vomit with (you guessed it) more hot dogs. As they do this, their faces turn red then green then pale yellow, and veins bulge out of their heads and necks. It is painful to watch, but probably not nearly as painful as it is to eat 50 hot dogs in 12 minutes.

In even the most physically demanding sports – marathon running or boxing, for example – the victors typically show incredible pride and joy after matches. Not so for competitive eaters; last year’s champion, the world record holder Kobayashi (53 and three-quarters) finished the Nathan’s contest with a mouthful of hot dogs, so overwhelmed with beef franks and vomit that when he was named the winner, he was unable to hold up his head. He did not smile; he merely countenanced some pitiful grimace. The saying was reversed in this case – it was the agony of victory through and through.

If you are planning your own hot dog eating contest (or, hopefully, soy dog eating get-together with reasonable portions) for Independence Day, here are a couple tunes to soundtrack it with.

Simian Mobile Disco – “Hotdog” (from the forthcoming Attack Sustain Decay Relase)
Four Shells – “Hot Dog” (from The Complete Stax/Volt Singles: 1959-1968) (Do not sleep on this one. It is a dope jam.)

The contest runs live July 4 at noon Eastern on the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network.


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