Shortly before his death, US president John F. Kennedy said, “The war against hunger is truly mankind’s war of liberation.”
If this is true, then, without exaggeration, Joey Chestnut is one of the greatest Americans in the history of the universe.
Not only is he a champion, holding a record in a sport previously dominated by Asians, but through the ferocity and determination in which he competes he is at the vanguard of the war against hunger — specifically his own.
Just in case you’ve been in a coma for the last two years or you’re a toddler in a small jungle village, Chestnut (nicknamed Jaws) is one of the all-time great hot-dog-eating champions.
In what will surely be adapted to the big screen in future years, Chestnut defended his title at the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest July 4 on Coney Island, defeating six-time champion Takeru Kobayashi from Japan.
It ended in a spectacle that will inevitably surpass such great moments in sports as the Ali-Fraser fight of 1971.
At the buzzer both Chestnut and Kobayashi were tied with 59 hotdogs consumed.
In the first overtime finals in the contest’s 82-year history, Chestnut took the title wolfing down five more dogs in the extra round.
Putting down 64 dogs in one go is enough to impress even Michael Vic.
Some say that encounters with Chestnut are comparable to meeting the Pope.
“Gas is approaching $5 a gallon, tomatoes are unsafe to eat, but the Mustard Yellow Belt is on American soil,” said Richard Shea of Major League Eating, in an article from majorleagueeating.com.
“Joey Chestnut is an agent of change.”
What Shea failed to realize is that by successfully defending his title Chestnut prevented change.
In his defence, Kobayashi encountered a common setback that many competitors face in the delicate ballet that is competitive hot-dog eating — he vomited through his nose.
What is impressive about the sport is the range of contests and champions its proliferation is producing.
In Ithaca, New York, two weeks ago, Jesse Simons won the Office Worker Appreciation Week hot-dog-eating contest.
The win is astounding because Simons is a vegetarian.
But Simons eats meat “occasionally for things like this,” he said.
Nothing says dedication like the willingness to push aside moral obligations that, in themselves, take tremendous dedication to adhere to.
A week ago in Gastonia, North Carolina, 38-year-old Stan Childs began his climb to stardom winning the Gastonia Grizzlies’ hot-dog-eating contest.
“I won it for my son,” said Childs, speaking to the Gastonia Gazette and glowing with an inner light that only a victory draped in gluttony can produce. “He begged me for a year to come back.”
Even pintsized competitors are getting in on the action.
In Elgin, Illinois last week, 12-year-old Hannah Burklow won her first contest in the Wiener Ville hot-dog-eating contest, after a disappointing second-place finish the previous year. Coupled with an adult division, the event, which gave away $300 in prizes, raised a whooping $210 for charity.
There was also a videogame released last month called Major League Eating in which characters eat and — you’re going to love this — squirt ketchup at each other. I feverishly made changes to my stock portfolio as soon as I heard the news.
But what’s keeping me up at nights is that as this sport emerges, Canada is being left in the dust.
What we need are scholarships and government-funded coaches. I can’t help but think: Why isn’t there a Hot Dog Eating Yukon Association?
To relieve my mounting anxieties, I, a lonely sports reporter, will be beginning a vigorous training schedule that is sure to put Canada and me at the top of the game.
My mornings will now start at 4:30 a.m. with a sausage-based breakfast. Then comes the 15-kilometre run, towing a wagon of hotdogs, eating one every 30 paces.
In the afternoons I’ll be working with my sports psychologist, a former adviser to Iraq’s Olympic soccer team, training to increase my mental toughness.
I will also be working with a physiotherapist in the evenings to loosen my throat muscles until billiard balls can easily roll from the back of my throat down to my stomach. As I progress I will move from hot dogs to bratwursts, until I can put back kabasa sausages with ease.
If that doesn’t work, I have the number of a doctor in Switzerland who will implant a Teflon tube in my esophagus.
It truly is the sport of gods.
It takes endurance, strategy, hand-eye co-ordination, and if a series of losses produces a depression induced eating disorder in the form of binge eating, then you’re already in training for the next event.