Television audiences are a cynical group. Spectators are often quick to say, “I could’ve hit that free throw,” or, “How hard could it be to pretend to be a king with a stutter?” Yet those viewers are silent during the one magical hour each year when Nathan’s Hot Dogs and Pepto Bismol proudly present the Hot Dog Eating Championship. In the spirit of the contest, I decided to chronicle the goings on at this exciting event:
12:00 – We kick things off at noon Eastern Time with the sixty-something announcer who looks like a circus ringleader, except he wears a straw hat that says Nathan’s on it. Mr. Straw Hat introduces the home viewers to our television analysts. Today we’re treated to play-by-play from former Indy Racing announcer Paul Page and color commentary from the President of Major League Eating, Richard Shea. This would be the equivalent of David Stern announcing the NBA Finals, instead of spending that time developing new sedation pills for Ron Artest. Let’s move on.
The next 28 minutes of the broadcast were, to say the least, spellbinding. Things got heated at the weigh in, when eaters Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas and Juliet Lee both became inhabited by the ghost of Clubber Lang, and stared each other down for a good 15 seconds.
We then cut to sideline reporter and daughter of the 2010 Oscar winner for Best Picture, Rene Herlocker, who carefully defuses the terrorist bomb that is interviewing Nick Cannon. Cannon grills some of his marginally famous Cannon dogs, pimps out Pepto Bismol, and hypes up the crowd while wielding a spatula. As any child of the nineties learned, “Ain’t no party like a Nick Cannon party ‘cause a Nick Cannon party don’t stop.”
We then see a segment featuring competitive eater Pete “Pretty Boy” Davekos, who teaches the viewers all of the different hot dog eating techniques, including “The Buns and Roses” shake, and a common move known as “the dunk”, where the eater dunks his bun into a cup of water to expand the stomach. He ends his tutorial by performing “The Juliet”, where the eater tosses the hot dogs over the shoulder and pretends to have eaten them. There’s clearly some bad blood between “Pretty Boy” and Juliet Lee.
12:25 – Right before the contest begins, we see highlights from the Inaugural Women’s Hot Dog Eating Championship, which is almost like the original version, but is less exciting because there’s a lot less dunking. Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas beats the field by a clean 11 hot dogs, cementing her title and taking home the first pink belt.
12:27 – A commercial for “The Open”, as if it’s the only Open in sports. Wasn’t sure which Open it was for the first 30 seconds. The British are so arrogant.
12:28 – Mr. Straw Hat announces the competition by saying, “It’s time to ride the tornado and make love to the dragon.” I think he took Gus Johnson’s job at CBS.
12:29 – We meet the competitors. First, “Big” Brian Subich, owner of the worst and most common nickname in professional eating. He’s followed by Adrian Morgan, who “captured the hearts of scouts” when he ate 7.5 pounds of spinach in 10 minutes. There’s a professional eating scout? There’s more than one? Do they use sabermetrics? Is there some sort of eating combine? My head hurts.
12:30 – “He’s eaten 8.5 pounds of blueberry pie. Tim G-G-G-G-Graaaaaavy Brown!” Gravy Brown, not to be confused with Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Gravy Brown, punctuates his entrance by showering the crowd with a supersoaker filled with gravy. Immediately a fan favorite.
12:31 – We’ve reached the portion of the introductions where we meet some of the more well-known eaters. You know what that means? Entrance music! Erik “The Red” Denmark is the first with a hand-picked song, and enters to “Cry Me a River”. It takes everyone by surprise. Not the good kind of surprise, a weird, uncomfortable surprise. Justin Timberlake probably got a chill just now.
12:33 – The young up and comer of professional eating, Matt “Megatoad” Stonie is introduced. He looks like a villain from a Disney Channel movie. He enters to “Never Say Never” by Justin Bieber, and Paul Page graces us with some play-by-play, “He’s rocking the Bieber haircut.” Thanks Paul!
12:34 – A hot dog eating contest is not complete without a foreign menace, a villain. Now that former champion Takeru Kobayashi is training with the Legion of Doom in their Darth Vader helmet swamp lair, the MLE needed a new villain to compete with 4-time champ and American Hero, Joey Chestnut. They recruited a team of three Chinese people that are venomously booed by the crowd. They wear matching red jumpsuits, as if it’s the Olympics. “Dear America, in honor of your birthday, we will have 40 thousand people verbally assault 3 Chinese people who have no idea they’re in an eating contest. Love, The MLE.”
12:36 – Here come the Big Four. First Bob Shoudt, a large white father who wears a gigantic gold chain and goes by the name Notorious B.O.B. He consistently uses the phrase “True dat.” His trailmixtape drops Friday.
The 2nd ranked eater in the world, the mohawked and fu-manchu’d Patrick Bertoletti, enters to a bagpipe rendition of “Amazing Grace”. “He’s American by birth, Italian by name, and Irish by the grace of God,” Mr. Straw Hat tells us. I think Bertoletti is applying for Irish citizenship, but he might just be on a mission from God.
12:37 – Here comes my favorite eater in this year’s competition, Tim “Eater X” Janus! The video introduction for Eater X reveals that his favorite food is candy and he likes to drink syrup. There is a 73% chance that Buddy the Elf is based on Tim Janus. Mr. Straw Hat begins introducing Eater X with, “He was found unconscious by authorities in Tangiers,” and ends with, “Specially trained, special ops, he travels the globe searching for clues to his former life.” Eater X is essentially Jason Bourne, if Bourne was also the tiramisu and tamale eating champion of the world. Go Eater X!
12:38 – Mr. Straw Hat introduces the man of the hour, Joey Chestnut, who’s greeted as if he was a member of Seal Team Six. Among his records is the Pizza Hut P’zone Championship. Very impressive. His entrance music is Baba O’Riley. He’s a vision of American Society. Go get ‘em, Joey!
12:39 – Mr. Straw Hat tells us that Chestnut’s “DNA is a blueprint for a modern day archangel.” It’d have to be to eat that many P’zones.
12:40 – As we go to commercial, we hear a song called “Hot Dog”. I’m assuming the song was written specifically for this moment.
12:42 – Herlocker asks Chestnut how’s he’s feeling: “I feel like a big hungry American eating machine!” Finally, a successful machine made in America.
12:43 – The rules explain that a “reversal of fortune” results in an automatic DQ. The Notorious B.O.B. thinks that means automatic Dairy Queen. We then cut to Herlocker, who wears a big blue poncho and stands near the center of the action. “I’m not getting ready to watch a Gallagher Show or see Shamu,” she explains. The poncho industry’s key demographics are Gallagher fans, Sea World goers, and hot dog contest sideline reporters, which explains the poncho industry collapse of 2008.
12:44 – We’re a minute away from the epic contest, and Page shows us the results to the “Is Competitive Eating a Sport?” SportsNation poll. “81.3% say no!” says Page. Well I’m glad we’re all here, then.
12:45 – “Blitzkrieg Bop” blares over the sound system, Mr. Straw Hat gives us a big karate chop, and our former racing commentator gives us the line he’s been waiting to use all day, “Gentlemen, start your enzymes!”
12:46 – Bertoletti is clearly Chestnut’s biggest challenger. Plus he dunks his buns into fruit punch instead of water and it gets all over him, so he looks like he’s just slaughtered a herd of bison.
12:47 – Chestnut takes a quick lead in the opening minutes, “He reminds me of Bradley Cooper in a sorority house,” the David Stern of eating tells us. Chestnut 19, Bertoletti 18.
12:48 – Apparently it’s very brave of the Chinese competitors to come to Coney Island on the 4th of July. Mr. Straw Hat is checking out the girls holding the hot dog counter signs. I hope they like straw hats and food puns.
12:49 – If Chestnut wins his fifth he’s going to become the “Bjorn Borg of Smorgasbord”, yells Eating David Stern. Perhaps he’ll also become the Justin Tuck of Potluck, the Rudy Gay of Buffet, the Matt Leinart of A La Carte, the Mardy Fish of Side Dish, the Swin Cash of Dine and Dash, and the Stuart Appleby of Applebee’s.
12:50 – Chestnut’s coach is his brother Willie, whose constant yelling of “let’s go, let’s go, eat faster” gives us a look inside Chestnut’s strategy. Also, we learn that Chestnut is favoring his left shoulder. An avid fisherman, Chestnut has bursitis in his shoulder from fishing too much. I think that’s how Greg Oden hurt his knees, too. Fishing is a pretty common reason for injuries in sport.
12:50 – Page reminds us that 80% of America says that this is not a sport. Thank you for the reminder. Chestnut 38, Bertoletti 34.
12:51 – And here comes Eater X! He’s jumps into third place, but can’t seem to overtake Bertoletti or Chestnut. Eating David Stern compares him to the Miami Dolphins, who…always finish in third? Are the Dolphins known for finishing in third?
12:52 – Eating David Stern now compares Chestnut to Hines Ward in “Dancing with the Stars”. I have a feeling he doesn’t care for sports. Chestnut 48, Bertoletti 43.
12:53 – Tim “Gravy” Brown has withdrawn! The Gravy Train has pulled into the station! Tough day for the Gravy Groupies. Chestnut 52, Bertoletti 48.
12:54 – Bertoletti is getting desperate, he turns around to see the score. Never look back at the hot girl with the sign. Rookie mistake.
12:55 – Chestnut wins it. Eating David Stern calls him the Phil Rizzuto of Risotto. I’m disappointed I didn’t think of that one earlier. We go to commercial.
12:58 – It’s good to see that all sideline reporters ask equally terrible questions, no matter the competition. Herlocker just asked Chestnut if he was trying to break the world record today.
12:59 – Joey Chestnut just kissed a bottle of Pepto Bismol, and Eating David Stern compared him to Novak Djokovic.
Given the state of the NBA and NFL lockouts, I’m looking forward to more of these competitive eating events. It beats watching baseball.