The American spirit is comprised of a few crucial elements – freedom (very important), liberty (another word for freedom, still important), and competition. When you put them all together, it results in the greatest day on the American calendar, the Fourth of July. Independence Day ultimately boils down to competition – who can procure and ignite the biggest fireworks, who can drink the most and get the biggest baddest sunburn on the beach, and who can eat the most hot dogs.
And so it is, that among the pyrotechnics, the patriotism and the family cook-outs, the Nathan’s Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest has come to symbolise all that is great about America. Strength, fitness, hard work and vast quantities of processed meat come together in Coney Island, New York, each July 4.
#1 world ranked competitive eater Joey “Jaws” Chestnut came away victorious overnight, winning his eighth straight Nathan’s title by consuming “only” 61 hot dogs in 10 minutes. In drizzling rain, Chestnut just outlasted rival Matt Stonie on 58 dogs.
There’s a lot to be said about a competition for who can choke down the greatest volume of animal offal and processed white bread buns. As people not a handful of miles away in the less affluent sections of New York starve and languish in poverty, a handful of competitors and hundreds of spectators at the scene (and thousands or millions around the world, via the broadcasting of ESPN) gather to wolf down hundreds of hot dogs for just one reason; “because America.”
As homeless men, women and children huddle on street corners or under highway overpasses or in back alleys, the middle-class huddle outside a hot dog store to celebrate and whoop and cheer the staggering feat of gluttony of a man gulping down 61 hot dogs. That’s 61 meals. Enough to feed 20 people for a day. Enough for one person to eat three square meals per day for 20 days. Gone in a flash, consumed not for enjoyment or nourishment or energy but for entertainment and the all-coveted Mustard Belt.
In a moment of pure irony, Iggy Azalea’s ‘Fancy’ plays over the speakers as the time winds down to zero; as contestants dunk their bread buns into soda cups to make them into a mushy, gooey slop easier to slide down their throats, ‘fancy’ is likely the last adjective you’d think to use about the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.
“I had a little aneurysm,” says the announcer. The contestants will likely be feeling a little more than that before too long.
Spare a thought for Stonie, however – 58 hot dogs, a million calories and kilograms of soda-soaked bread and pig lips in his belly, and the poor guys walks away without the title. Almost makes it all seem pointless, huh?