Is a hot dog a sandwich?
Grills across America were stuffed with burgers, brats and hot dogs Tuesday as part of Independence Day festivities. Dads everywhere dusted off their finest pairs of cargo shorts and twirled spatulas like Neil Peart. The charcoal burned like the wicks of mortar shells while families celebrated another year as free (grain of salt) American citizens.
Nobody celebrated harder than Joey Chestnut.
Chestnut, nicknamed “Jaws,” scarfed down 72 hot dogs and buns at the ever-popular Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island.
What a country we live in.
Seventy-two freaking hot dogs. I don’t eat that many hot dogs in a year; I’m sure of it. I ate two hot dogs at a barbecue Tuesday and my taste buds were like, “Mike, that’s good, man. Eat some watermelon. Take a load off. We’ll have another hot dog in a couple weeks.”
In fact, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council — a real thing — Americans eat about 70 hot dogs per person per year.
Chestnut ate 72 hots dogs in 10 minutes. He broke his own previous world record of 70 hot dogs, which he set last year, and he’s now won a record 10 Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contests.
I didn’t watch Tuesday, and I haven’t watched the past several contests, but I can sadly say I’ve watched the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest before. More than once.
But competitive eating is a real thing, because this is the United States, and the Nathan’s event is the pinnacle. Or the cellar? I’m not sure how to interpret this whole idea.
Legend states that 1916 was the first year for the hot dog eating contest, but the event became an annual tradition, hosted on Coney Island, in 1972. It has been a Major League Eating — another real thing — sanctioned contest since 1997.
In the first year the contest went to a 10-minute format — 1980 — the winning eaters, Joe Baldini and Paul Siederman, ate 9 and ¾ hot dogs. Nobody ate more than 25 until Takeru Kobayashi changed the game in 2001, dunking 50 dogs down his gullet like Michael Jordan from the free-throw line.
Then came Chestnut, a human garbage disposal who ate 66 in 2007. He and Kabayashi went toe-to-toe in 2008, needing a five-dog eat-off to determine a winner. Chestnut took the crown and the world by storm.
In 2011, a women’s division was formed. Miki Sudo won Tuesday with 41 hots dogs consumed.
So yes, July 4, 1776, was a historic day in United States history. Two-hundred and twenty years later, Will Smith went and saved the planet from alien destruction in “Independence Day,” and 21 years after that, Joey “Jaws” Chestnut reached unprecedented territory on the world’s most prestigious gluttonous stage.
Land of the free and home of the brave.
If you’re looking to challenge Chestnut, be prepared to work wonders on your body. Chestnut’s FitBit charted through the roof Tuesday as he passed the 20,000 calorie-intake mark, according to Nathan’s nutrition facts. Even more impressive were the 56,000 milligrams of sodium and 2,160 milligrams of cholesterol.
As an added bonus, Chestnut holds eight other world records eating various foods — shrimp cocktail, pork ribs, deep fried asparagus, among others. Quite the pallet.
But Tuesday was Everest. Chestnut ate 72 hot dogs for America and for freedom. He’ll wear the mustard-yellow belt for another year, but his burning heart pumps red, white and blue forever.
And no, a hot dog is definitely not a sandwich.
Photo by: Hello Turkey Toe — Used via: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode