On July 4th, the nation’s greatest competitive eaters gathered at Coney Island, New York, to participate in the annual Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest, the Super Bowl of “how many can you eat in 10 minutes” contests that have been the cornerstone of county fairs for the better part of a century. The Nathan’s Famous event supposedly got started back in 1914 when a quartet of immigrants decided to see who among them was the most patriotic by eating the most hot dogs. It has since become a spectacle that draws thousands of fans, international media coverage and even a live broadcast on ESPN. The event is sanctioned by the International Federation of Competitive Eating and has strict qualifying standards. The winner gets $20,000, which seems like a lot until you figure that probably just covers one’s training costs.
This year, Joey “Jaws” Chestnut, a construction engineer from California, won the mustard-colored belt for a fourth consecutive year, eating 54 hot dogs (buns included) in 10 minutes. That seems incredible until you realize that last year, he consumed a whopping 68 dogs. That’s 6.8 a minute. Most people couldn’t digest that many in a day. Honestly, just thinking about it makes me want to hurl.
It seems fitting that in today’s America such a severe bout of overeating is considered a sport. The average hot dog is 242 calories; a Nathan’s Famous is 309. When Chestnut won in 2009, he took in 21,012 calories–enough to feed a family of four for close to three days. He probably had enough sodium in him to give the guy standing next to him high blood pressure, and I’m guessing his saturated fat intake began to make light bend around his body.