Nothing says America better than a well-attended, sweat-filled display of gluttony. That's why I spent part of my Fourth of July holiday quelling my gag reflex and watching ESPN's coverage of the annual Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest. As promised, the competition turned into a true clash of the titans with six-time champion Takeru Kobayashi and his bad jaw going head-to-head with Joey Chestnut and his freakishly expandable stomach. Kobayashi is Japanese. Chestnut is American. In case you didn't know that, ESPN was there to say it a whole lot during the broadcast. There was even a helpful graphic showing past battles between the U.S. and Japan, thankfully stopping short of World War II.
It was an impressive field of competitors with champions who specialized in all sorts of competitive eating, including the intimidating, bad-ass field of strawberry shortcake consumption. Chestnut himself is a champion waffle eater and recently downed more than seven pounds of medium-hot hot wings in 12 minutes. Sure, I just get weird looks when I try to do that, but these guys get trophies. It's sexism, I tell you!!
Kobayashi and Chestnut proved to be well-matched, with the two leading the pack for the entire competition. At one point, Chestnut had a five dog lead over Kobayashi, who mounted an impressive comeback, taking the lead at one point and looking as though he might re-take the title...until the last seconds when he suffered what competitive eaters (or at least ESPN) refer to as "a reversal of fortune." And yes, it was disgusting. There's nothing like watching a sweaty man slap his hands over his mouth to try and hold back an explosively vomitous mass of hot dog and wet bun. Chestnut won the contest with a new record of 66 dogs swallowed. Kobayashi came in second with 63. Our victory over Japan was complete, and the ghost of General MacArthur could rest once more.
Back to the whole "reversal of fortune" thing. I can't believe this competition helps Nathan's sell hot dogs. Who finds the sight of men and women with pulsating forehead veins and gobs of hot dog juice streaming out of their mouths attractive? Does that make me want to eat? No. In fact, it makes me want to remove my stomach and never ever think about food, let alone Coney Island pork products, again.
Now if we were talking pie, that'd be totally different.