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Competitive Eating and the Fourth of July

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“We are thrilled to offer this spirited event on America’s most patriotic day,” said Wayne Norbitz, president and CEO of Nathan’s Famous [hotdogs], Coney Island competition sponsor.

Food competitions are a big deal in America. Today at the annual Coney Island hotdog eating competition, high jinx ensued as previous champion Takeru Kobayashi was arrested after taking the stage in protest after Joey “Jaws” Chestnut was awarded the top prize. Kobayashi wasn’t allowed to compete because he refused to sign an exclusivity contract with Major League Eating, the organisation responsible for the event. With all this brouhaha, we thought we’d do some hard hitting journalism and give you some facts about eating for sport:

  • In today’s competition Chestnut became ‘top dog’ after eating 54 hotdogs in just under ten minutes. According to most sources an average hotdog contains about 110 calories and a bun somewhere around 105. Assuming there are no condiments involved, that’s approximately 215 calories per dog, meaning Chestnut ingested a whopping 11,610 calories in ten minutes, 1161 calories per minute and 19.35 calories per second. It would take someone

    weighing 150 pounds over ten hours straight of running at 10 mph to burn his total calorie intake. (source)

  • According to their website, Major League Eating holds around 80 events per year and the ESPN broadcast of their fourth of July Hotdog competition has generated more viewers than any Major League Baseball telecast on the same day in the US. Their website also has a page featuring world records in eating where people have ingested mass quantities of an impressive list the includes slurpees, vienna sausages, asparagus, beef tongue, butter, cabbage, clams, cow brains, gyoza, haggis, bannock and yes, spam.
  • Competitive eating is more popular in Japan and the USA than any other countries.
  • There is apparently some bad blood between Major Eating League and the other organisation that officially represents competitive eaters, the Association of Independent Competitive Eaters. According to Wikipedia, the AICE was “established by competitive eater Arnie “Chowhound” Chapman, also sanctions contests. Chapman was a former IFOCE member who defected to form an independent league after disputes over IFOCE contractual restrictions.” AICE members also refer to themselves as ‘food warriors’.
  • ‘Chipmunking’ is the practice of shoving a bunch of food in your mouth during a competition but not swallowing it. Generally this isn’t cool. People who do this are usually given a specified amount of time to swallow the food in their mouth once the competition is over and if they can’t then they’re disqualified. Vomiting is also not allowed and competitors are asked to maintain a fairly rubbish free eating area.
  • Competitive eating can actually be a dangerous sport with side effects including: a bleeding overstretched stomach, ulcers, water intoxication and stomach paralysis.

In a 2007 piece for the Huffington Post, actor Ryan Reynolds summed up competitive eating aptly: “we are ALL bound together by the vibrant spirit of competition and grotesque displays of boundless, unapologetic shitheadery.”

Happy Independence day America!

Image Credit: Hot Dog by benjibot