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The Classic Fourth of July Tradition Continues
Joey Chestnut and Miki Sudo defend their Mustard Belts at the annual Nathan's hot dog-eating championships.
There’s no Fourth of July without traditions. And, while many think of fireworks, our thoughts drift to Nathan’s annual hot dog eating competition, a tradition that started in 1972 and has grown into a worldwide phenomenon.
Each year, champion eaters compete for the Nathan’s title, with tens of thousands of spectators converging on Nathan’s original location on Surf and Stillwell Avenues in Coney Island. This year, 35,000 are expected to watch as the food-eating athletes do their thing.
And, yes — we said athletes.
These men and women — all members of Major League Eating — the professional eaters’ association — train all year to push their bodies to the very limits as they down dozens of dogs.
If you want further proof, ESPN provides complete coverage of these feats of physical endurance. The women's competition will stream on the ESPN app at 10:45 a.m. ET. The men's competition will kick off at noon ET on ESPN2 and stream on the ESPN app. All events are held on July 4th.
Unfortunately, not all athletic competitions are created equal. And, even though these fierce competitors train year-round for this day, their financial compensation isn’t in the same league as, say, football and basketball. The winners of tomorrow’s competitions (male division and female division) receive $10,000, second place gets $5,000, third place gets $2,500, fourth place gets $1,500, and fifth place gets $1,000.
In addition to the cash prize, the male winner receives the “Mustard Belt”, with the champion female getting a pink “Mustard Belt”.
This year, Joey Chestnut is the odds-on favorite. The champion eater will compete for his 16th Nathan’s title. The competitor currently holds a world record for consuming 76 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes in 2021. Last year, Chestnut consumed 63 hot dogs (and buns) for his 15th “Mustard Belt” win. To get insight into the toll competitive eating takes on Chestnut, Insider interviewed the eating machine, who shared that he “sweats like a madman” and that it takes him about two days to feel normal after a competition.
In the women’s division, Miki Sudo defends her title. Last year, Sudo won the champion title by eating 42 hot dogs and buns. Sudo is also the women’s world record champion for eating 48.5 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes.
If you want to try your hand at competitive eating, most festivals and fairs offer amateur versions of the sport, allowing you to try your hand at a tamer pace than that of the pros. And, if you’re not into hot dogs, there are other eating challenges that range from pies to oysters.
I, myself, have tried my hand at competitive eating at a local celebrity chef bao eating competition. I didn’t win but managed to down a formidable amount of baos with my bao-eating partner, chef Todd Erickson (picture proof here).
According to Gambling.com, the best state for competitive eating is Nevada, followed closely by Illinois and Indiana, so if you’re looking for a career change, maybe a move to Sin City is in the cards.