Former world hot dog-eating champion Takeru Kobayashi fired right back at Mayor Bloomberg, who earlier today called the AWOL competitive eater a coward for threatening to skip the annual July 4 contest in Coney Island, where he has lost three consecutive years to Joey Chestnut.
One day after Bloomberg mocked Kobayashi at the ceremonial weigh-in at City Hall by suggesting that he could not “stand the heat” so he had gotten “out of the kitchen” of professional mass consumption, Kobayashi told this reporter that he was disappointed in the mayor’s remarks.
“Being in his position of power, and only hearing one side of a story and judging publicly in that manner, I would have hoped that he would have wanted to hear my story as well,” the legendary competitor told me, via an e-mail from an undisclosed location. “He is one person with an opionion. He is allowed to this.”
The mayor’s opinion was, of course, informed by reports that Kobayashi planned to skip Sunday’s contest in a contract dispute with Major League Eating, the governing body of all stomach-centric sports. MLE spokesman George Shea blamed Kobayashi for the dispute. Kobayashi blamed MLE for demanding that he compete only in MLE-sanctioned events, essentially forbidding him from being a so-called “free agent.”
Though Kobayashi was not at Friday’s weigh in, his inchoate presence was certainly felt.
First, the mayor channeled Harry Truman when asked how he felt when he heard the international news that Kobayashi had bowed out of a repeat contest with Joey Chestnut, the American who has beaten him three years in a row.
“Well, you know what they say: If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen,” the mayor said, drawing gasps from the press corps.
Then, Chestnut said he didn’t care if Kobayashi came or not.
“I always go for a new record either way,” he said, dismissing the argument that the legendary Kobayashi constantly pushed Chestnut to greatness. “To me, 69, 70 sound like good numbers.”
Later in the day (actually, just seconds ago), Kobayashi ramped it up with his rebuttal to the mayor — and then claiming that he would win the contest outright if he was there:
“About being in the contest and competing against Chestnuts [sic],” Kobayashi said switching to the more-common third-person. “Kobayashi has stated that he is physically and mentally prepared to compete and of course would beat him. There is no reason that he would loose. Of course, he still wants to take part in this competition.”
Kobayashi’s participation is very much in doubt. Late on Friday, he issued another statement saying that he is prepared to waive his lucrative appearance fee in exchange for resolving the larger dispute with MLE.
Shea could not be reached for comment, given a deadline so fast that we don’t even have time to burp.
Earlier in the day, he said, “We have never stopped negotiating with Kobayashi to bring him here. We want him here. Nathan’s wants him here. The fans want him here. And he himself has said he wants to be here. So why won’t he work out [a contract] with us that will bring him here?”
Chestnut ate 68 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes last year, defeating Kobayashi by a resounding three-and-a-half HDBs.
Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest [corner of Surf and Stillwell avenues in Coney Island, (212) 627-5766], July 4, noon.