Posted by: Mark Nielsen | July 4, 2008

The Mustard Belt Stays in America

Joey Chestnut - competitive eater

“He wanted it, but I needed  it.”

So said American Joey Chestnut today, as he narrowly defeated perennial competitive hot dog eating champion Takeru Kobayashi in the Nathan’s world championship on Coney Island. At the end of the ten minutes (a time reduced from the former twelve minute period, to increase the pace) the two were tied at 59 hot dogs each —  ten more dogs than any of the other competitors. Then the regulation tie was resolved in a 5-dog “dog off”, a shootout where speed mattered more than ever. Chestnut finished his fifth dog not long after Kobayashi, who “stumbled” early, had just started his.

Chestnut, a Californian, kept the victory in perspective in the postgame interview. He put a nice patriotic spin on his response to “Why do you do this?”, responding humbly “I love to eat. I love the competition. We’re just having some silly fun, which is in the spirit of Fourth of July.” Chestnut was the defending Nathan’s champ, but last year Kobayashi reportedly had a jaw injury. Thus the statement above about “needing it”. Chestnut had to beat a healthy Kobayashi to secure his legitimacy as a champion.

Meanwhile, the commentators went on about Kobayashi having to win to maintain the image of “his brand”. What human being is, in himself, a brand? Is this what we’ve come to?

The competition itself was as weird, funny, and intense as one would guess… reportedly the best competition ever in the 80-plus years of the contest. And the first commercial after the crowning of a winner was from the main sponsor, Heinz Ketchup.

Ketchup?! On a hotdog?! That’s un-American right there. Or at least goes against the traditional hot dog rules here in Chicago, where we take our hot dogs VERY seriously. (Condiments allowed: yellow mustard, sweet relish, tomato wedges, celery salt, onions and hot peppers optional… any questions?!) Get away from me with that sauerkraut. Put the chili in a bowl. Save the ketchup for your burger. This here’s a Chacaago dog!

Maybe it’s a political thing, and Senator Kerry’s ketchup-mogul wife Teresa Heinz Kerry is the perpetrator. They’re swift-boating their condiment competition. You think it’s an accident that the leading yellow mustard on the market is called French’s? What’s next, Freedom Dogs?

Don’t let them do it, Joey. You’re America’s best hope to stay on top in the world. Not only did you need it… we needed it, too. And we’re right proud of ya.


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