Freak show at Coney! Chestnut wins, but Kobayashi’s arrested!

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It was double disappointment at Coney island on July 4 as three-time world hot dog–eating champion Joey Chestnut triumphed over 15 challengers at the annual Nathan’s contest — but he not only failed to come close to his history-making performances of the past, and he also had to watch as his greatest challenger, Takeru Kobayashi, rushed the stage at the end of the contest and was arrested.

It was a bizarre footnote to a fortnight of confusion that began when Kobayashi, a six-time world champ, refused to sign a contract with Major League Eating, the governing body of all stomach-centric sports, and was, therefore, not assigned a spot at the table of champions. That absence allowed Chestnut, who set the world record last year with 68 hot dogs and buns, to cruise to victory under scorching conditions with just 54 HDBs.

Kobayashi’s re-emergence stunned fans of competitive eating, who had been consuming steady diet of reports that he would not be at the contest because he had failed to sign a contract with Major League Eating, a story first broken by this paper.

Chestnut said Kobayashi’s absence had nothing to do with his sub-historic performance under stifling weather conditions.

“I was not firing on all cylinders,” the champ told us seconds after winning the Mustard Yellow International Belt for the fourth straight year at the July 4 contest. “Of course, I wanted to set a record, but it was hot out there. If Koby had competed, his numbers would have been down, too.”

As Chestnut basked in the victory, Kobayashi created a major disturbance by rushing the stage and being detained by officers from the 60th Precinct stationhouse, where he was spirited away.

He was charged with trespassing and resisting arrest, though Major League Eating said it does not want to see him punished.

“What I saw was not criminal but desperation,” said MLE Executive Director George Shea. “He doesn’t want to be a Major League Eater and then he shows up here? Why?”

Kobayashi, who was held overnight before his arraignment in Downtown Brooklyn on Monday, told reporters that he was in the crowd as a spectator until fans of the sport started chanting, “Let him eat. Let him eat.”

“I was hoping, because of the crowd, they would let me eat,” Kobayashi said.

Footage of the Kobayashi arrest show the Japanese speaker saying only, “Let me in [to compete]” as he was taken away by police. He was wearing a “Free Kobi” T-shirt, and his translator added that the former champ only wanted a place at the table. (Former Brooklyn Paper legend Ben Muessig has a wonderful slideshow of the arrest on AOL News.)

But that place was in question because of the contract dispute — a story that got so hot that even the mayor of the world’s greatest city felt compelled to weigh in last week.

“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 at Friday’s ceremonial weigh-in.

Kobayashi later fired back that the mayor was uninformed, and he let it be known to some reporters that he was in New York City, though few could have predicted the bizarre ending.

Indeed, about an hour before the festivities started at the corner of Surf and Stillwell avenues, Kobayashi’s personal manager — and girlfriend — sent out an e-mail to “his fans” to let them know of his plans to show up.

“Kobayashi will be going to the contest,” she wrote, claiming that he only intended to “cheer on his ex-fellow eaters in the spirit of July 4th.”

“But,” she added, “he will also be there and ready, if for any miraculous reason, he is allowed to compete, even without a secured contract.”

The “spirit of July 4th” ended in arrest and ignominy — though Major League Eating tried to take the high road.

“Takeru Kobayashi’s actions at the contest were inappropriate and unfortunate, but it did not diminish Joey Chestnut’s victory, or the holiday tradition that dates back generations,” the league said in a statement. “Kobayashi was a great champion and we hope that he is able to resolve his current situation and move past this.”

Chestnut also refused to let the detention of Kobayashi ruin the day.

“I just wish he’d figure out what he wants and work it out,” Chestnut said.

In the 10-minute contest, Tim “Eater X” Janus finished a distant second with 45 HDBs and Patrick Bertoletti finished third with 37.

Updated 5:19 pm, July 9, 2018: Includes even more details.
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Reasonable discourse

Scott from Staten Island says:
I watched the contest on ESPN and it was closer than this report makes it out. The X-man was holding his own with Chestnut, who pulled away slowly but surely, with the key word here being slowly.

With proper training, X could become a factor in the coming years. He should hire himself a great manager, like Wally Backman.
July 4, 2010, 6:13 pm
Rudy from Ditmas Park says:
This Hot Dog Rock guy had it right all along - "The July 4th Song (The Day Kobayashi Went Down)"
July 4, 2010, 10:23 pm
Trudy from Ditmas Pork says:
Ha ha - hot dog rock is so true - who knew?

I've gone down on my fair share of hotdogs - but none has been so sweet as this chestnut!

He ain't nothin' but a hot dog... do do do
July 5, 2010, 9:52 am
food gangsta from bensonhurst says:
food gangster will take the wing king of new york title again this year on thwe 17th right at nathans
July 5, 2010, 11:42 am
eat dogs is NOT sport from Bucossaville says:
It's ludicrous they are referring to stuffing massive quantities of food down your gullet as a "sport". Just insane!
July 5, 2010, 2:51 pm
King from Queens says:
Major League Eaters? Contracts? Drama? This isn't fun anymore. Thugs and lawyers have moved in. I'm moving out.
July 6, 2010, 1:22 am
that guy from that one place says:
Chestnut wins again, cool, but all this junk with contracts and stuff...that is so dumb. The fun and the challenge that makes this interesting...gets lost in the fact that "Major League Eating" has to be there to make money off of something, and hold out a good competitor because they want to make money off of him, go figure. If Kobayashi didn't sign it, it was probably because something wasn't right in that contract, and I think it puts this competition in a bad light.
July 6, 2010, 2:17 am
Stephanie from Suffolk County says:
I agree with "that guy" above -- Why should these guys have to sign contracts?!

Ridiculous --- Unless maybe it's simply a release form stating the contestants won't sue whoever is sponsoring this event (I assume that's "Major League Eating?") ----if they get sick to their stomachs from cramming in more than they're physically capable of taking in.

----- But if there's anything wrong with the HOTDOGS, if they're undercooked or something, whoever is at fault for that SHOULD be responsible...

So I also wonder what was in that contract, that this "Koby" wouldn't sign it....
July 6, 2010, 3:35 am
richie rich from parkslope says:
it maybe a marketing scheme...good job though..
July 6, 2010, 1:30 pm
KobiFan from Northwest says:
The reason why Takeru did not sign the contract was because the contract would not allow him to attend other contests or be on TV without their permission for one full year which will not let him do his fast-eating performances or anything related or unrelated to that on his own at all.

First few years, he could compete without contract but they started to require a contract and it became more restrictive year by year.
Moreover, those contracts were not the same for all contestants. Not all contestants had to sign similar contracts that they stubbornly required Takeru to sign.

I'd like to cite a few sentences from his blog post dated 7/3.

"My Visa was granted by the country of America for my 'Extraordinary Ability' which permits me to work".

"My Extraordinary Ability is eating fast, and eating lots of food so if the contract restricts my ability to eat in a major way, what is the point in having granted the Visa?"

"Off course, I don't need money at all.
I told them through my attorney that if they let me compete in the contest, they don't need to pay me a dime".

"Since I started living in America, I could finally practice eating the same hot dogs as the ones used in the contest, I have been so eager to attend this year. And also, I am more ready than ever to compete, break the record and win".

"However, the contract that even looks like it was written to deny not only my winning but attending itself, I am perplexed because I just cannot accept what is written in the contract".

"There's no doubt it is a very important contest to me, but I really don't want to sign a contract that looks like a slavery contract on Independence Day".

"I wish to get the freedom and be allowed to attend the contest on Independence Day".

To me, this whole thing looks like a really bad joke. I'm sure a part of good America as I thought I knew died on Independence Day this year.
July 7, 2010, 4:07 am
Scott from Staten Island says:
I think it's time the Dean of Competitive Eating journalists gets on this story.

Here's a hint: Follow the money.

And Wally Backman.
July 8, 2010, 5 pm
Motivational Speaker from In A Van Down By The River says:
If it weren't for Kobi being as good as he was, and getting people interested in competitive eating, no one would be getting a contract from this "Major League Eating" organization.

He should be exempt from their rules, for he is the one that really pushed the boundaries back.

Nov. 5, 2010, 3:06 am

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