This Fourth of July, many of us will be enjoying a hot dog or three. But if you’re one of a few select Major League Eating athletes in Coney Island, you’ll more likely be eating forty, fifty, or sixty — in the space of only ten minutes. We refer, of course, to the competitors in the crown jewel of all competitive eating events: The Coney Island Nathans Hot Dot Eating Contest; which, since 1916, has taken place on July 4th, Independence Day.
George Shea and Richard Shea are the co-founders of the International Federation of Competitive Eating, and the chairman and president of Major League Eating. They share their insider knowledge of this weekend’s big competition. They tell us about the up and comers we should be looking out for, and the chances that the legendary Joey Chestnut will be able to hold onto the coveted Mustard Belt for the fourth year in a row.
John Hockenberry weighs in:
What constitutes a sport? The big shots on the “Competitive Eating Circuit” can make some serious cash. $150,000 is what you get for winning the Coney Island Fourth of July Hot dog Eating Competition. The International Federation of Competitive Eating sponsors 80 professional events around the world. Competitive eating has been pitched to the Olympics to no success. Hot dog chomping is just beneath the dignity of the people who bring you Ice Dancing, Curling, and synchronized swimming. But who cares about the IOC in the 21st century? The Shea brothers have it it dead-on: Competitive Eating IS a sport no matter what the Olympics pointy-heads say. It’s a sport for the simple reason that it’s on ESPN."