Explain This

How to watch the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest without throwing up in your living room

July 4, 2017
Professional Eaters Compete In Annual Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest
Eric Thayer

We’re sure we don’t have to remind you of this, but the annual fiesta of wieners and intestinal engorgement known as the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Competition returns this July 4 to its home in Coney Island, which officially cements its position as America’s most vomit-covered island (sorry, South Padre). Since we here at the Loop participate in a significantly more genteel sport than one which regularly features competitors chorking up hot dogs on the field of play (though we’re kind of always worried about Daly), here’s a quick primer:

Wait, what is going on here?

Every July 4, the country’s most accomplished competitive eaters gather for the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Competition in Coney Island, the Super Bowl of jamming buns into one’s face, to see who is America’s greatest patriot and make us feel that the three hot dogs we just inhaled are really no big deal.

This is on TV?

It’s on SPORTS TV: The competition airs on ESPN2, because technically watching people eat hot dogs is more of a sport than NL Central baseball.

Who signs up for this?

This year’s competition includes an all-star roster of famed competitors who have somehow not died already. This includes 2016 winner and nine-time champion Joey Chestnut, who last year demolished a galactic-record 70 hot dogs in 10 minutes, so most of those should be almost digested by now. Chestnut owns a total of 43 competitive eating records, which is 42 more than we knew existed. We basically witnessing a legend in action, the walking combination of Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron and ‘roided-up Barry Bonds all in one hero, albeit one with godawful-smelling burps.

This dude ate 70 hot dogs in 10 minutes?

Yes, WITH BUNS, as per the competition’s strict rules. Also, much like global temperatures, coffee prices and aborted attempts at Obamacare repeal, the numbers here just keep going up and up. In 2008, Chestnut won with 59 hot dogs, which seems like a handful of pre-meal oyster crackers compared to the mark of 69 he hit in 2013 before cracking the 70 ceiling last year. We are living in a time that shall come to be known as the golden age.

Is there a ladies’ division?

GLAD YOU ASKED. On the ladies’ side, because there’s a ladies’ side, Miki Sudo is the reigning champion. She’s won three years in a row. It is not easy to topple a champion in competitive eating, people. You just have to wait until they bow out, and by “bow out,” I mean “sort of vaguely stumble in a forward direction while their bellies make sloshing noises.”

What do the quote-fingers winners get?

Searing intestinal pain, obviously. But they also get the Mustard Yellow International Belt, so christened because of the hot dog-related condiment, and because it doesn't look much different when you hurl on it. Last year, Chestnut took home $10,000, although obviously most of that went right to the plumber.

How much can the human stomach hold anyway?

The maximum human capacity for even a grossly distended belly is about four liters when full. That’s a little over a gallon’s worth of food, or a double McDonald’s filet of fish. According to ESPN’s Darren Rovell, Chestnut’s failing systems last year absorbed 19,600 calories, 1,260 grams of fat, 54,600 mg of sodium and 700 grams of protein.

Well this all sounds horrible. When can I watch it?

We feel the exact same way. It airs at noon on July 4 on ESPN2, although historians can catch up with previous year’s competitions all morning on ESPN Classic, which is stretching its name to within an inch of its life. ]