JT’s Treasure Trove #8: 2016 Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest

Hello! It is Independence Day (kind of), and that means another Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest recap here at Place to Be Nation! Over the past three years, I have recapped this great annual event for you fine readers, and being a strong torchbearer for tradition, I am geared up here in 2016 for the historic 100th installment, live (on tape delay) from Coney Island! This year is even cooler for me because last August I got to actually visit the very site of this legendary competition:

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It was a moment. A moment. But now we fast forward to Independence Day 2016 and it is time for our 100th Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest! We had a mega upset last year when Matt Stonie took down our eight time champion Joey Chestnut and the big question right now is whether Stonie can do it again. As we fade up we get to check out the competitors exiting the bus followed by an epic montage narrated by our emcee  George Shea. He is a treasure. It was like the opening of Beerfest only more intense. We even get a glimpse of the suped up mustard championship belt, which is augmented for the 100th anniversary celebration. Paul Page and Rich Shea are back in the booth and Rich gives a nod to this review right out of the gate by saying this street corner is the “place to be”. Atta boy Richie. Stonie took home that title last year but was just seventh all time for total dogs consumed. The boys inform us that Chestnut put on a show at the recent June qualifier in Washington DC when he knocked down 73.5 hot dogs to break his own world record in a monster display of eating prowess. If he does that again here today, that belt will be his again.

Paul tosses things over to Melanie Collins, who is back for a second consecutive year. And just as a reminder of the beauty of Miss Collins, here you all go.

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America, am I right? However, as we always do, we must stop to pay tribute to our favorite Nathan’s Famous sideline reporter of all time. The First Lady of Processed Meat Consumption Contests, the gorgeous Renee Herlocker.

 

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Renee come back. You can blame it all on me. Anyway, Melanie takes us to a cool video package talking about the history of Coney Island and its evolution, including the development of Nathan’s and eventually the hot dog eating contest. We even get to hear from Kenneth Jackson, a professor at Columbia, so the information is all very legitimate. The original founder Nathan Handwerker started selling these dogs for a nickel in 2016 and used some shrewd business practices to grow the company from there. And that includes the initial contest that very year between just three competitors. One of the legends included is that THE Franklin Roosevelt brought the hot dogs to Yalta to share with Stalin and Churchill!

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During this package, Richard Shea is exposed as the President of Competitive Eating. This is like Vince McMahon being outed as WWF owner back in 1994. Shocking.

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The package continues, breaking down the recent contest history, specifically around the dominance of Kobayashi and Chestnut. Fun piece there for contest and Coney Island enthusiasts, so check it out. That is topped by the revelation of the Nathan’s birthday cake: a massive vanilla pound cake shaped like a hot dog. And yes, this is all narrated by Melanie. Pound cake. Wieners. Melanie. Hache mache.

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When we return from break, we check out a graphic of the recent head to head battles between Chestnut and Stonie, of which Stonie has won seven. Chestnut’s lone victory came this past May when he knocked off Matt in a gyro eating competition. Rich Shea then has a sit down with Joey and Matt out on the boardwalk, talking about their history and rivalry. Joey has grown quite the beard, clearly a product of a tough year since his defeat. During the year, he took the time to rework his style now that he is 32, working to enhance his capacity and breathing. What a warrior. He also says retirement is far off, he isn’t ready to hang it up. Matt is pretty straightforward here and doesn’t have the charisma of Joey at all. He puts over Joey and then they both admit it’s about the fame and the money and discuss being from the same town and existing as both friends and rivals at the same time.

Back in the booth, Rich says the over/under is 70 and he thinks we will see that over hit more than once today. His analysis is that Joey has better capacity but Matt is a speed man, however it is a long contest and puts his money on Chestnut. Good insights from the boss. After this break, the women are up next so don’t stray to far away!

After that commercial, we check out clips of the Brooklyn Cyclones celebrating the 100th anniversary at last night’s bad game, including Badlands Booker twirling the first pitch. Before the ladies take the stage, let’s have a peak at the all time leaders for most dogs eaten:

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Miki Sudo won the title last year with a very low total of 38 but Sonya Thomas wants revenge for the defeat. There are other ladies in the mix but really this was a two horse race. Clips follow and both Sonya and Miki put on a show as always, swallowing meat and bun for a strong ten minute period. And at the end, Miki Sudo stood tall yet again, proving last year was no fluke, putting down 38 1/2 dogs to outpace Sonya by 3.5. Another soft total for both, but Miki did enough to win comfortably. Is Sonya cooked? Sure seems to be the case. Miki was very complimentary of Sonya but is very thrilled about the win, natch. She credits her “bun boy Dave” for the support throughout, pushing her and keeping her from giving up. Nice work, Davey Boy.

After a break, Melanie gets some final words from Stonie and Chestnut but the time is nigh for contest #100. Sadly, it looks like there is no sports science segment again this year. Maybe it will return someday. Also, there is a lot going on here with the bunettes and the Bun City Dancers and some stats, so I will let you digest it all, no pun intended:

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But with all that behind us, the main event has arrived. And we kick it off with our yearly highlight of George Shea’s introductions! As always, I shall do my best to keep up with the master, but this is always worth checking out yourself because he is amazing.

Dan “The Big Cat” Katz (Awarded the “Plimpton Seat” exemption)

Steven Schuster (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu purple belt)

Crazy Legs Conti (12th career appearance, very mystical background, which includes a tale of him eating his way out of 60 cubic feet of popcorn)

Brian “Dud Light” Dudzinski (Ranked #17 in the world and is in perfect physical condition, has eaten 30.5 moon pies in eight minutes)

Marcos “The Monster” Owens (Once ate 34 cannoli in six minutes; an intellectual genius after proving Thursday was the “fourth best day of the week”)

Juan “More Bite” Rodriguez (#13 in the world; Loves manscaping and personal training)

Rich “The Locust” LeFevre (Oldest competitor in contest history and an accountant from Las Vegas; 11th in the world and the reigning spam eating champion)

Erik “The Red” Denmark (Has a tattoo of a grilled cheese; #12 in the world)

Gideon Oji (Ranked #10 in just his second season; 6’9″ tall)

Geoffrey Esper (Teacher with a grad degree in physics)

Eric “Badlands” Booker (The legend, world glazed doughnut eating champion)

Again this year, I implore you that you need to watch this entrance, just for George Shea’s amazing rap! And Badlands joins in this year for a duo. What a showman Shea is.

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Carmen Ciccotti (Qualified with 42 HDB, most by any non-Chestnut contestant)

Yasir Salem (Not book smart but can recite his 25 favorite foods in reverse order of preference, focusing on Italian and Mexican dishes; Has eaten 47 ears of corn in 10 minutes)

Shea raps the foods! This fucking guy.

Adrian “The Rabbit” Morgan (#4 in the world, Oyster eating champion, plus lots of other creole food)

And cue Baba O’Reilly…

Joey “Jaws” Chestnut (Two years ago he got engaged on stage, right before last year’s contest that wedding was cancelled and then he lost the contest; He was lost, sad and alone, but he then remembered who he was and here we are)

 

 

Wow, no Tim “Eater X” Janus this year? Shocked, he is always a mainstay!

Matt “Megatoad” Stonie (Our Champion, a destroyer of eating contests; just 130 pounds)

And of course, we always pause to ensure we never forget Jeff Machado (Most slices of pizza eaten during one period of playoff hockey in 2013)

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Whew, I need a drink. And a break, thankfully we get one. But when we return, we will be off and running baby!

A little more hype after commercial, with a promotional package for the contest set against a fun little poem. And Melanie is by the stage, talking about the evolution of Chestnut and how he has overhauled his strategy and realized he had gotten complacent on top. In addition to weightlifting and cardio, he developed a new breathing technique for eating. He is focused, rebuilt and ready to rock. Stonie remains cool and collected as always. Thanks Melanie!

George Shea counts us down… and here we go! The dogs and buns are being chomped as we tick into the first minute. Chestnut is already at six dogs just 30 seconds in as the crowd is fired up with the beautiful weather and basking in the joy of the competition. Chestnut is on fire, clocking in at 13 after the first minute, padding a five dog lead on the champ. Cincotti is keeping pace with Stonie as Chestnut maintains his five dog lead. As we hit the eight minute mark, Chestnut is at 22 with Stonie at 18. Cincotti is falling off the pace but hanging in as Rich Shea praises him as part of the future. As we tick under seven minutes, Chestnut is on a 100 dog pace (!) at an astounding 10.22 dogs per minute. This son of a bitch came to play. Stonie is now seven back!

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Shea puts over all the legendary rivalries in sports history and compares them to Stonie and Chestnut but really this is like Brady vs. Luck right now because it is a rout at the moment. We spend a moment on the battle between Cincotti and Salem, as they throw down for that third place purse. Chestnut is on a pace for 80 now as we are nearly halfway down. Stonie is getting run out of here, a sad showing in his first Nathan’s defense. As we hit the halfway point, Chestnut is at 44, leading Stonie by 10 and on pace to destroy his record of 73 1/2. It is now or never for the champ as time is running tight. Cincotti is hanging in strong in third place, closer to Stonie than the champ is to Joey C. Page notes that Stonie is just 130 pounds but will consume over seven pounds worth of food today. With three minutes to go, Chestnut is sitting comfortably at 54, a 12 dog lead over Stonie, who is also at an 80 dog pace. As Joey is running away with this thing, Page and Shea discuss how Chestnut reinvented himself and learned from his loss and it is paying off big time here. The big man Oji is into fourth now as Page notes his height works against him due to the longer path to digestion. With 90 seconds left, Chestnut is cruising with a 14 dog lead. Cincotti is at 37, barely hanging on to third place over Oji. Stonie is cooked so this is all about the world record now with one minute to go.

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As you can see, Joey needs to put back nine dogs in :56 to break his record. That would mean he has to pick up his pace, which is a hair over 7/minute so far today. Can he do it? He needs to hit 70 to break the Nathan’s record. So much tension! You can cut the electricity with a knife!

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The seconds are ticking away as Chestnut hits 68 with :23 to go. Stonie is down 17 as the final ten seconds are upon us and… Chestnut hits 69… and then 70! Chestnut has reclaimed his crown and set a Nathan’s record! What a monster comeback performance! Pure destruction. See ya, Stonie!

After the break, George Shea congratulates Stonie on his reign as champion and a second place finish but the king is dead. Long live the king… JOEY F’N CHESTNUT. A true redemption story. After all that personal heartbreak, here we stand, the new Coney Island record holder and current nine-time Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Champion of the world… Joey “Jaws” Chestnut!

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Joey is ecstatic as are we all. A true gutty comeback by a legend of the game. Stonie has a few dejected comments and then we see Joey handed his title belt as we wrap things up from Coney. And what a picture perfect day it was on the Island. It is also very fitting that the record was set on the 100th anniversary of this great event. It has been a whirlwind day as always but I am already ready to go for 2017 and the big time rematch between Chestnut and Stonie. Will Matt take the loss and learn and come back ready to go? Time will tell. Be sure to study the legend of Joey Chestnut and apply it to your every day life. How to struggle and overcome adversity and rise to the top like a warrior. History has been made on Coney Island folks and we are just lucky to have witnessed it all together. Until next year!

Author: JT Rozzero

JT Rozzero is a cohost of the Place to Be podcast and original member of the legendary Moliseum Video. He enjoys all sports. The only thing he hates more than traffic and customer service is people. He is a proud Svenjolly and has had a sinus infection since October 2013. Send Justin an email