As important as July 4th is as a celebration of our independence, it has also become known for a major athletic competition: Nathan's Famous July Fourth International Eating Contest. For those that are unaware, that is the hot dog eating contest that takes place at Coney Island every 4th of July. And for purposes of SB Nation Bay Area, it is where San Jose's own Joey Chestnut has built himself into a near mythical icon in the world of competitive eating.
Chestnut is the current holder of the mustard belt, and the three-time defending champion. While he has always put up great numbers, Chestnut took an amazing step forward by setting a new world record, even as the organizers maintained the ten minute time limit. With 68 hot dogs, Chestnut bested his previous record of 66.
This year there is added controversy as previous hot dog king Takero Kobayashi has threatened to hold out due to contractual obligations. According to Kobayashi:
Japanese competitive eater Takeru Kobayashi has travelled to New York and is standing by ready to participate in the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest on Sunday for free, waiving his usual appearance fee. But he is asking that Major League Eating desist from demanding that he not appear in any competitive eating contest not organized by MLE, including in Japan. "This is not about the money," Kobayashi says. "I told MLE I would take a reduced fee and then offered to participate with no appearance fee at all." But "[f]or me to take part in the Nathan's contest on July 4, one day out of the year, MLE wants to keep me from doing anything else without them for over one year."
Chestnut was recently interviewed on ESPN's First Take, during which he discussed Kobayashi's "hold-out" and how much it might actually just be gamesmanship.