THERE IS REALLY NOTHING MORE TO BE SAID ON THIS…AMAZING WHAT THESE GUYS CAN PUT AWAY…
Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest from Coney Island, N.Y. — 11 a.m. Saturday on ESPN — has become a Fourth of July staple as much as fireworks restrictions, low-level tubing water and Astros flameouts. Last year’s competition was tied at 59 dogs apiece after 10 minutes between Joey Chestnut and Takeru Kobayashi, with Chestnut retaining the coveted mustard belt in a five-dog eat-off. Who will shine in 2009?
Here’s a closer look at the two most popular contestants and some of their lesser-known challengers:
Joey ‘Jaws’ Chestnut
Residence: San Jose, Calif.
Credentials: Two-time defending champion ended Kobayashi’s six-year dynasty in 2007. ... Major League Eating’s Rookie of the Year in 2005 (yes, they have awards, too). ... Has also won championships eating asparagus, waffles, ribs and chicken wings. ... Ate 103 Krystal hamburgers in 2007 to wrest that title from Kobayashi
MajorLeagueEating.com says: “Blessed with strong esophageal muscles and extremely capacious cheeks, Chestnut is widely considered the best chipmunker on the circuit.”
Takeru ‘The Tsunami’ Kobayashi
Residence: Nagano, Japan
Credentials: Six straight hot-dog championships from 2001-06. ... Set world record with 57 cow brains (17.7 pounds) in 15 minutes in 2007. ... Lost a 2-minute, 36-second hot-dog eating sprint to a Kodiak bear on Fox-TV’s “Man Versus Beast” in 2003, with the bear winning 50-31. ... Set a record of 58 Johnsonville brats in 10 minutes in 2006. ... 2004-06 Krystal hamburger eating champion
MajorLeagueEating.com says: “His feat on July 4th, 2001, of downing 50 hot dogs and buns in 12 minutes, doubled the previous record and left entire continents agape with disbelief. Since that fateful day, his gurgitating prowess has gone almost uncontested, and his feats have left people shaking their heads.”
Best of the rest
Tim ‘Eater X’ Janus
Of note: Competes in various disguises. Showed up in a bikini in 2007 Bikini Bar and Grill String Fry Eating Championship ... Finished third in last year’s Nathan’s event
Records include: 4 pounds of tiramisu in 6 minutes (2005) ... 71 tamales in 12 minutes (2007) ... 141 pieces of Nigiri Sushi in 6 minutes (2008)
Richard ‘The Locust’ LeFevre
Of note: In his mid-60s, he and his wife Carlene have made an annual pilgrimage for 11 years and counting to the Big Texas Steak Ranch in Amarillo to polish off a 72-ounce steak
Records include: 12 corn dogs in 10 minutes (2003) ... 6 pounds of SPAM from the can in 12 minutes (2004) ... 71/2 extra-large 24-inch pizza slices in 15 minutes (2005) ... 5 pounds of birthday cake in 11:26 (2005) ... 73/4 pounds of huevos rancheros in 10 minutes (2006) ... 247 short-form pickled jalapeño peppers in 8 minutes (2006)
Sonya ‘The Black Widow’ Thomas
Of note: She’s listed at 105 pounds
Records include: 11 pounds of cheesecake in 9 minutes (2004) ... 9 pounds of crawfish jambalaya in 10 minutes (2004) ... 8.4 pounds of baked beans in 2:47 (2004) ... 8.62 pounds of sweet potato casserole in 11 minutes (2004) ... 48 soft chicken tacos in 11 minutes (2004) ... 8.31 pounds Armour Vienna Sausage in 10 minutes (2005) ... 44 Maine lobsters from the shell (11.3 pounds of meat) in 12 minutes (2005) ... 8.2 pounds of chili cheese fries in 10 minutes (2006) ... 46 crab cakes in 10 minutes (2006) ... 9.75 pounds of deep-fried okra in 10 minutes (2006)
Two personalities seemingly separated at birth, but which would you invite to your crib?
Kyle Blanks: He may have a lighter complexion, but there is nothing feathery about this 6-foot-6, 285-pound behemoth of a first baseman/outfielder/DH who could be a bouncer. A member of the Missions last season, Blanks, 22, was 6 for 24 with three doubles, three runs scored, three RBIs and eight strikeouts with the Padres entering Monday night’s late game against the Astros — his ninth with the big-league club.
Jermaine Dye: If Blanks has a career similar to Dye’s, call it a success. The White Sox outfielder, 35, is a 15-year big-league veteran. A rookie in 1996 with the Braves, Dye then spent five seasons with the Royals and four with the Athletics. The career .277 hitter with 316 homers and 1,036 RBIs joined Chicago in 2005. All he did that year was win the World Series MVP award.
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Buns not complete without Bunnettes
Perhaps to counter the somewhat unpleasant sight of individuals stuffing their faces to the point of regurgitating all over themselves on national TV while you’re hosting your family BBQ — or simply because they can — the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest provides something more pleasant to look at.
Unlike cheerleaders, Bunnettes have a job that can influence the outcome. Each Bunnette is responsible for counting off the amount of food eaten by competitors in Major League Eating events.
According to the MLE Web site, a Bunnette is also “A woman, seductive by disposition, who is passionate about the sport of competitive eating and its practitioners.”
Or to put it another way, the site says: “When little girls dream, they dream of one day becoming a Bunnette. A Bunnette is more beautiful than Miss America, hotter than a Cowboys cheerleader and more talented than Vanna White.”
So, exaggeration is on Nathan’s menu, too. But so what. It’s our national holiday.
You have the freedom to eat it all up — or turn the other cheek.