What once was a July 4th tradition has now admittedly turned into a total farce. Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating contest is suppose to be the “Super Bowl” of Major League Eating (MLE) staged every year at the perfect venue in Coney Island……..the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues. Millions and millions of true Americans look forward to this event. However, poor marketing efforts, dull contestant personalities and mundane television coverage has just all but killed this 97-year old experience. What this event needs is a proven promoter, a real American, somebody who knows how to resuscitate a dying institution…….it needs somebody like a Donald Trump to save it. After all, if he can bring Arsenio Hall back to life on his Celebrity Apprentice show, he can do anything!
Disappointment is now at an all-time high for this lackluster promotion. For starters, ESPN did not even broadcast this year’s event “live”. Given that they were the ones that first took Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest mainstream in 2004, it was both annoying and shocking to witness this abrupt change of programming priority. (The event, as usual, took place at noon but was not televised until 3pm EST). I don’t care, the Wimbledon women’s semi-finals could’ve waited…….…this is America’s birthday, dammit, and we deserve “LIVE” hot dog eating! Other unfavorable changes have also recently taken place. Unfortunately, Nathan’s has now taken over total control of this event (the exact reason legendary eater and six-time champion Takeru Kobayashi, who desires independent representation, has refused to participate the last two years). Nathan’s certainly knows how to market and sell hot dogs, but doesn’t have a clue when it comes to showcasing the contest eaters. MLE President and goofball stage announcer for the contest, Michael Shea, has also become an embarrassment with his overdone commonplace shtick.
The 28-year old San Jose native Joey Chestnut, known as “Jaws”, won this year’s event for the sixth straight year (tying his archrival Takeru Kobayashi’s record of six consecutive wins), and equaled his personal best of ingesting 68 dogs & buns and over 20,000 calories in 10 minutes to earn the $10,000 winner’s check. However, Joey Chestnut’s closest rival at Nathan’s could only woof down 52 dogs & buns…….not even in the same league! The taped delayed broadcast did nothing to liven-up the competition in what should be the “Most Exciting 10 Minutes in Sports”. This year’s contestant introductions and event commentary remained unchanged and uncreative. To make matters even worse, Renee Herlocker’s (where did she come from?) interview of Joey Chestnut following his victory was painful and awkward to watch. His pre-scripted “I feel good, it was a great win….I’m looking forward to next year already” was all she could coax out of him. Are you kidding me?! Memo to ESPN for next year’s telecast……try taping some “before” and “after” prep footage on the contestants. That’s something the viewers would want to see and learn more about. Also, many of these competitive eaters consume more than hot dogs on July 4th. Joey Chestnut alone holds 19 different MLE records. Let’s at least see some video on their other world-record eating feats! Thankfully, all was not lost. We did learn something new from this year’s telecast……..there is an iTunes download available on Major League Eating – The Game. That commercial must have been show at every break!
Yesterday, across town at Roberta’s Restaurant in Brooklyn, Takeru Kobayashi downed 68.5 dogs in the Crif Dog Classic and won $15,000 (I guess it pays to go independent). No doubt these separate contests spell big trouble for the future of Famous Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. These two competitive eating titans MUST be brought together, side-by-side at the same table, once again! It’s simply what America is all about on July 4th ……..seeing who can eat the most hot dogs in 10 minutes without regurgitation! Now that I think about it, since the multi-talented Seth MacFarlane seems to know exactly what entertains America, maybe he too should also have a hand in next year’s event production. Bring this event back to the lofty prestige it so richly deserves!
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