To many, the 4th of July stands for Independence and the founding of a nation...but, to the people at Coney Island, it means Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest. And what a contest it is! For the 6th consecutive year, Takeru Kobayashi of Japan won the contest by downing 53 3/4 hot dogs in 12 minutes, a new world record. But unlike years past, Kobayashi has some serious competition in an American, Joey Chestnut, who managed 52 hot dogs.
Chestnut jumped to an early lead in the competition, up by 2-3 hot dogs at different points in the competition. But the American hit the wall and turned red faced, veins bulging from his forehead as Kobayashi methodically downed the dogs after dipping them into a soft drink. Kobayashi took the lead with about 3 minutes remaining and would not relinquish it despite the raucous crowd's support of Chestnut.
Among the competitors were another favorite, 100-pound Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas, of Alexandria, Va., who once ate 65 hard boiled eggs in a little more than 6½ minutes, and a local favorite, Eric "Badlands" Booker, a 425-pound subway conductor from Long Island who holds speed-eating records for pies and matzo balls.
Joey Chestnut remains the American hope to regain American glory in the hot dog eating contest. But it will be at least another year before the United States can stake its claim to the annual 4th of July tradition. How much longer will Americans wait before recapturing the championship? For me, it's been too long already.