I hate to rain on America’s parade — the annual patriotic disgorgement that is July 4 — but Saturday in Coney Island will mark the end of our nation’s leadership in that most important of geo-politico-athletic spheres: Joey Chestnut will lose to Takeru Kobayashi.
Don’t believe me? Consider this: On March 30 in California, Kobayashi beat Chestnut — for the first time in two years — in a one-on-one, mouth-to-mouth, gut-to-gut eating contest, downing nearly six pounds of Pizza Hut P’zones in six minutes, a full half-pound more than Chestnut managed to swallow.
Don’t believe it? Then click on the video player on our Web site to see the evidence — undoctored! — of Kobayashi’s triumphant return.
Now I know you don’t want to believe what I’ve just written and what your own lyin’ eyes have just shown you. I know you want to believe that Joey Chestnut — who restored America’s flagging international status by beating Kobayashi in the Nathan’s Famous contest in 2007, and then retained the Mustard Yellow International Belt in his narrow win in the rematch last year — can complete his three-peat at the Table of Champions this Saturday.
But I know Takeru Kobayashi (full disclosure: I’ve been his judge at the Nathan’s contest for the past five years) and I know that he’s not done as a competitor. The P’zone contest was only a preview, a palimpsest, if you will (if you will know what “palimpsest” means, that is).
“If you watch the P’zone tape, as I know millions of your readers will, you see that Kobayashi is back to his old form,” said George Shea, president of the International Federation of Competitive Eating. “The P’zone is a monster — a full pound of meat, cheese and crust. It’s an enormous thing to eat. And I’m not just saying that because I was paid by Pizza Hut that day.
“And remember, both of Joey’s victories over Kobayashi were by the thinnest of margins — one burp either way, and Kobayashi wins both times,” Shea added. “We’re definitely in an ‘any given Sunday’ situation, except, of course, that the contest is on a Saturday — this Saturday in Coney Island, in fact!”
It’s not that Shea wants Chestnut to lose; quite the contrary. Indeed, Shea sees a Chestnut loss as something that could begin a downward spiral for our entire nation.
“We are in a really delicate position right now, what with the economic crisis, which was at its core a crisis of confidence,” Shea said. “If Joey loses, people will begin to doubt themselves. It’s an intangible, I grant you, but people walk with a more sprightly step when America has the belt. A loss could push us over the edge into abject despair.”
Get ready for the Great Depression. Kobayashi is back.
Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest at Nathan’s Famous [Surf Avenue at Stillwell Avenue in Coney Island, (212) 352-8651], July 4, noon. Pre-show at 10:30 am will include acts by Ringling Brothers. For info, visit www.ifoce.com. And, of course, listen to “Hot Dog Time,” by the Bard of Coney Island, Amos Wengler.