"It is possible to die from eating. But I think to be professional means you don't die." (Takeru Kobayashi)

Monday, July 31, 2006

Love the commercials! The beer? Not so much.

The blog formerly known as Trencherwomen (now Eat Feats) reported a great link to a new Bud Light "Real Men of Genius" radio commercial devoted to "Mr. Hot Dog Eating Contest Contestant". Check it out here. Favorite lyric: "My left arm feels tingly!"

This entire line of commercials have to be some of the funniest advertising ever created. Somewhat effective too. Whenever they come on the radio everyone in the car shuts up and we actually listen to the commercial. Except I've still never bought Bud Light, so I guess they're not that effective. You know, I work in advertising and I still can't believe people get paid to write these commercials (because it seems so fun, not because it seems easy. . .which it's not).

Since 2000, they've made over 150 of the damn things, including unforgettable classics like "Mr. Way Too Much Team Clothes Wearer", "Mr. Overzealous Foul Ball Catcher", and "Mr. Silent Killer Gas Passer". If you're like me, you can't read the names of those ads without singing them in your head like the hair metal dude who sings them on the commercials. (A man who just happens to be a former singer for the 80's cheese rock band, Survivor.)

This wikipedia post lists every one of the spots ever made. And this site -- at least until Anheuser-Busch shuts them down for copyright infringement -- contains audio files of almost all of them.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Giant Hamburger Kit reaps giant rewards?

SuperSizedMeals.com is known for its photos of do-it-yourself giant burgers, but this website offers a "Giant Hamburger Kit" that promises to take some of the work out of the process. Well, at least the bun-making part. I should warn you, the website probably won't win any design awards anytime soon. The homepage alone will testify to that. (What's with the freaky floating torso woman sawing into the burger?)

For $29.95 you get "one 16 inch giant bun, one 16x16 box, one 16 inch serving tray, giant meat patty maker, and a step by step instruction book." The only thing you have to provide is 10 pounds of ground beef. So what, it's a $30 bun in a cardboard box, right? Well, one interesting thing on the site is a contest that pays a cool $1,000 to anyone who can eat their giant hamburger in 60 minutes or less. All you have to do is make the burger according to the instructions, top it with all of the required condiments, set up your video camera and start eating.

The folks behind the contest are very specific about what is and isn't allowed to happen during the "tapping" of the eating attempt. Below are the rules. Any spelling errors or awkward syntax is theirs, not mine. (Did they just call me a dip?)

"No one can walk in front of camera at any time. 3. With video camera still tapping and your burger dressed your friend/contestants can start eating the giant hamburger mark the time they only have 60 minutes to finish eating the burger. At the end of 60 minutes the contest is over. You can drink, dip. What ever works for you? No! Breaks or stopping the video camera at anytime make sure the video camera is running from start of dressing burger to the end of the 60 minutes. Otherwise your tape will be rejected by our judges follow all the rules mail us your tape To: The Giant Hamburger and good luck."

Is there a rare form of Tourette's Syndrome that causes random fits of shitty, misplaced punctuation? Who knows. Here's a random plug for the page that features the office pot luck photos. Don't miss it.

The site also has a
contest in which you can send in a picture of your burger and if it gets the most votes, you win $1,000. (How many of these damn kits do they sell that they can give away all this money?) The contest starts when they receive 25 photo submissions and it then runs for 60 days. Right now there are only four entries, but if the other 21 entries are anything like the ones that are already up there, I think I'd have a good chance of winning. So far, the entries feature a baby and giant burger, a woman doing her best Linda Lovelace impression with a giant burger, a giant burger with giant fries, and a couple staring awkwardly at a giant burger.

Even though I don't think they'll ever get 21 more entries, I seriously think I could win this thing. First of all, I could take a pretty awesome picture of my giant burger. I won't throw out any ideas here because they're kind of rough, but I will say that they do involve a baby, possibly multiple babies. Second, how many people actually visit this website? It wouldn't take much to tip the scales in my favor. I know a lot of people and they know a lot of people and if all of those people voted for my picture -- which may or may not contain a baby(ies) -- I'd win!

Yeah, I'm totally doing this.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Pizza Princess makes her competitive eating debut

PALUMBO PIZZA - Jenn ReadyA friend from work heard about my upcoming appearance in the World Pizza Eating Championship and challenged me to a half-a-pizza eating contest this evening. She agreed to be included in this post, but only on the condition that I not mention her last name. Said Jenn "The Pizza Princess" herself, "I don't want this coming up if someone Googled my name. . .not that anyone would, but you never know."

The Pizza Princess didn't win, but I have to admit I was a little surprised at how well she performed. Either I suck (which is very likely) or she's that good. I tend to think she's that good, but my attempts to get her to compete publicly in next month's local Kokomo Wing Eating Contest were unsuccessful.

I've included a few pics of our dinner here. At top is Jenn and below is both of us toward the end. A full set is available

Apparently, photographic proof of her gorging herself on greasy goodness from the local pizza joint is okay -- at least until those super geeks at Google figure out a way to make online photos searchable using facial PALUMBO PIZZA - My last piecerecognition software. Trust me, Jenn, they'll do it and then they'll rule the world. And you'll be outted as Harrisburg's top female competitive eater.

Don't sweat it though, a surprising number of men really dig that sort of thing in a woman. Right guys?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Eaters today, gone tomorrow

Like some guys' tastes in women, competitive eaters just keep getting younger. It's a fact. Rich Shea said during the Nathan's contest that the average age of ranked competitive eaters has dropped from 40 to 33 over the past year alone. I guess it's not surprising given the rising popularity of the sport, but one has to wonder what that means for the longevity of these young rookies' careers.

Guys like Joey Chestnut (22 years old, ranked #2 in the world), Pat Bertoletti (20, #4), Chip Simpson (24, #7) and Hall Hunt (24, #15) have all burst onto the scene in the past 18 months and represent the very bright and unpredictable future of the IFOCE. Appropriately, all four are unmarried college students, which seems like the perfect "occupation" for someone who might need to take a leave of absence for a bratwurst eating contest in Sheboygan.

But it's not like older, married and career-minded competitive eaters can't do the same thing. Sure, they've got real jobs and real spouses, but those jobs and spouses are also ones that support their alter egos as pro eaters. In other words, they saw competitive eating as something they'd like to pursue, realized their jobs or families would be cool with that dream, and built their careers as eaters around lifestyles that would sustain it.

Put yet another way, the best eater in the world might be putting an Old Country Buffet in Tulsa out of business as we speak, but he'll never realize his potential on the pro eating circuit because he's a workaholic with a demanding family life.

Unlike the new blood on the circuit. In order to indulge their gurgitory urges, they only have to worry about skipping out on a party at the Delta Kegga house on Saturday and maybe promising a girlfriend that they'll call and bring back a souvenir.

So their calendars are wide open -- for now. What happens in two years when Joey, Pat and the rest of the frat pack get real jobs or in five years when they marry and start families? Will today's Rookie of the Year candidates be competitive eating retirees in their late 20's -- trading hot dogs and grilled cheese sandwiches for PDAs and diaper bags?

Hard to say, but assuming competitive eating is still alive and strong then, I'm sure there'll be no shortage of new meat ready to take their spots at the table. That's if they're able to scrape together enough lawn-mowing money to pay for gas.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Sometimes when you lose, you really win (or something cheesy like that)

It was a close one, that's for sure. About a dozen eaters crammed the narrow tables for The First Annual Spot Hot Dog Eating Contest in Harrisburg, Pa. The premise was simple: the first to finish their eight dogs was the winner.

Long story short, my brother Jason (competing in his first ever eating event) won the contest by half a dog over Pete Miernicki and a full dog over me. We were pretty much the top three. Sadly, nobody was timing the contest, so I have no idea how speedy we were. For his efforts, Jason won a trophy, a ham and a $50 gift certificate to The Spot.

I learned from my last trial run that the Japanese hot dog eating method (separating the dogs from the buns and eating them separately) does not work well for me, so I invented my own method. Well, I'm not sure I really "invented" it. I'm sure it's been done before, but basically I squeezed the air out of the buns -- compacting them around the dog -- in an attempt to cut down on the overall mass of the bun. I hoped it would also reduce the amount of saliva and water the buns would soak up during the eating process. It worked pretty well. At least better than any other method I've used. Maybe I shouldn't share this secret here, but it was pretty evident from anyone watching that that's what I was doing.

My brother had a different method, though from watching him, you wouldn't think he was doing anything differently than anyone else. He shared his secret with me after the contest and it's such a smart strategy that I won't divulge it here because it's his to tell if he wants to and I want to test it out for myself to see if it truly does work. In theory, it sounds brilliant -- at least for speed contests like this one.

Even though I lost, I have to admit it was pretty cool to see my brother win this event. I might have the competitive eating passion in this family, but he's got all the talent. It'll be interesting to see if he can defend his status as Harrisburg's top eater in next month's Kokomo's Wing Eating Contest. Enjoy the pics below (see the full set

SPOT DOGS - Victory and Defeat
Even though it's blurry, I like this picture because it's a classic example of "the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat." That's Jason in the background and Pete Miernicki (the second place finisher and a man with four Nathan's Hot Dog Qualifiers under his belt) in the foreground.

SPOT DOGS - At The Spot
Me, Brad, Billy (the owner of The Spot) and Jason. Brad is a co-worker of mine who was going to compete in the event, but was feeling "sick" and backed out. Funny, he doesn't look too sick in this picture, does he?

SPOT DOGS - The Last One
This was all that was left on my plate at the end. My "squeezing technique" is evident here. Yeah, that's a hair in the upper right portion of my plate (click to enlarge). I had to look at that little curly thing the whole time, but I didn't let it slow me down. Come on people, I may not be a pro eater, but at least I've got the heart of one.

Friday, July 21, 2006

I am not alone

See, damnit! I'm not the only one with a "weird fascination" (your words, not mine) with competitive eating. There really are others just like me. Many, many dozens of others.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

I suck, but I'm working on it

Yesterday a few friends and I had lunch at The Spot as part of a training session for this weekend's hot dog eating contest. Gotta say, I wasn't too pleased with my performance. In fact, I got beat by Brad, our computer guy. (In my defense, he's not a geeky, pocket protector type of computer guy. He's actually a hell of an eater and if he'd ever quit his second job he might be able to win a few of these weekend contests.)

The test was four plain dogs for each of us and a side of fries to chow down on while the rest of our crew ate their meals at a more human-like pace. I went over my goal time of two minutes, which I'm not too surprized about considering I used no technique and the dogs were piping hot off the grill which made for some pretty awkward simultaneous biting and drinking to put out the fire. I even got a little blister on the roof of mouth, right behind my front teeth, but it shouldn't slow me down this weekend.

The owner of the place is an awesome guy and he was really stoked to hear that I (and maybe Brad) would be in this weekend's contest. He made a big deal out of it, making sure we had water and a stopwatch and announcing it to everyone within earshot, which is pretty much the whole place because it's so small.

Since I lost, I picked up the tab. Friday we're stepping it up to six dogs. I can't afford to lose again.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Another call up to the majors

Two days ago I received confirmation from Kate at the International Federation of Competitive Eating that I'll be participating in the Three Brothers World Pizza Eating Championship on August 12. That's going to be a great contest. $2,500 for first prize with a payout to fourth place.
Like the shoofly contest in June, I have no illusions of winning this event, especially considering its almost a certainty that Sonya Thomas will be competing as well. But I have to say, I'm inspired by the out-of-nowhere shoofly performance of Nathan Kunce -- the man who drove 500 miles ONE WAY from Cincinnati to compete in his first pro event and ended up taking third place over the likes of Crazy Legs Conti, Big Brian Subich, and Brickhouse Braunstein. Who knows what he did to prepare for that contest. Maybe he trained. Maybe he did stomach stretching exercises.

I did my first ever stretching exercise today -- drinking one gallon of water in two-and-a-half minutes. I did it at about 2 p.m. I had planned to do it during lunch and have the small beachball of water in my gut serve as an easy no-cal, mid-day meal but my love of actual food got the better of me.

I've heard most eaters do a gallon in one minute, but after the first 10 seconds I knew that wasn't gonna happen. Then I started thinking about the physiological make-up of the stomach and human body (which I admitted know very little about), and I thought: Does it really matter if I drink a gallon in three minutes versus one minute? Doesn't the water all go to the same place and do its "stretching magic" whether its there in 180 seconds or 60 seconds? I'm pretty sure it doesn't start leaving the stomach between minutes one and three, so I figured I was right in my half-witted assessment.

I can tell you from experience that one gallon of water starts leaving the stomach and entering the bladder (over and over again) only about 40 minutes after it's consumed. For the rest of the afternoon I could count on my body to remind me, almost like clockwork, when the clock struck the top of the hour. Ahh, the rigors of training.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Californians don't realize how good they've got it

In-n-out MENUAt right, in all of its simplistic glory, is an In-N-Out Burger menu. Note the emphasis of the "burger" as the main course. You'll find no McFried Fish concoctions or Asiago Grilled Spicy Chicken sandwiches. Just burgers, drinks, fries and shakes. How can you not love that? (It also makes it really easy to order when your ordering skills are slightly diminished for various reasons.)

I really can't explain it. I've never been to an In-N-Out Burger -- never even seen one in real life, since they're all located on the West Coast -- but I already love them and their food. I guess it's all those disgustingly delicious pictures of towering In-N-Out frankenburgers that I've seen bouncing around the blogosphere.

In N Out sign pink(Feel free to make the photo at left your desktop background. Seriously, it looks cool and it'll make everyone think you spent some time in California.)

Another thing that makes me love them is their mega munching-friendly menu. You see, at In-N-Out you can order a burger of any size (and no size is too large) simply by mumbling a few numbers. For example a "3x3" (pronounced "thh-REE bye thh-REE") gets you an In-N-Out cheeseburger with three beef patties and three slices of cheese. Order a 15x15 and you'll get a greasy, cheesy tower roughly one foot tall. Order a 100x100 and you get this. It's that easy!

And then there's the "
secret menu." Order your burger "animal style" and you get it fried in mustard and served with extra spread and onions ("spread" being a signature Thousand Island dressing-based condiment).
Order it "protein style" and you get a bunless burger wrapped in lettuce. You can even order your fries "light" (a little raw) or "well" (cooked a little longer). I'm seriously considering booking a flight to LA as we speak.

In the meantime, chew on these facts about In-N-Out while I pay a visit to Travelocity:

  • Starting pay at all In-N-Out Burger franchises is $9.00 and all full-time employees are given complete benefits.
  • Tom Cruise is an admitted In-N-Out junkie, to the point that he's commissioned the In-N-Out Cookout Trailer to cater the sets of many of his movies. (The trailer is also available for corporate picnics, Bar Mitzvah's and other events.)
  • When the drive-thru line is too long, an employee will walk the line of cars, taking orders and relaying them to the kitchen via a PDA-like device.
  • In-N-Out does not accept American Express.
  • There are no freezers in In-N-Out restuarants. All menu items are delivered fresh and kept in large, walk-in refrigerators.
  • In 1992, In-N-Out opened its first non SoCal location in Las Vegas. It has since opened little slices of heaven in Arizona and Nevada. (Note to In-N-Out executives: Round trip plane tickets to LA aren't cheap, so please consider opening a franchise in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania at your earliest convenience.)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The IFOCE meets Saturday morning cartoons

Found this funny 5-minute animated video on YouTube about the Nathan's hot dog eating contest. For some reason the first 17 seconds are blank, but it's better after that.

The cartoon features three fictional eaters facing off against Takeru Kobayashi (though "Hungry" Steve Hardy is obviously inspired by "Hungry" Charles Hardy). The scientific theories of how Koby is able to eat so much are great and the contest portion makes use of the awesomely cheesy song from the end of The Karate Kid when Daniel does the crane kick to beat Cobra Kai's ass ("You're the best around, nothin's ever gonna keep you down!").

Enjoy, but please pardon the hideous stereotypes.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Another local contest, another $20 gift certificate

Just wanted to take this opportunity to see how many competitive eaters are reading this by asking for a little advice. On July 22nd I'll be competing in a minor league eating contest called the "2006 Spot Hot Dog Inner-City Championship." (That's my title, not theirs. I think it's more commonly known as "the eating contest after the first band".)

Thing is, it's not a "how many can you eat in XX minutes" event. Instead, it's a "fastest to finish XX hot dogs" event. All speed, no quantity. And I'm assuming you have to have a clear mouth to finish. I don't really like speed-only events, but such is life on the lower rungs of the competitive eating ladder.
I guess that's typical of amateur contests. That method is easier to judge, easier to set-up and less of a logistical committment for the sponsor (in this case, Harrisburg's favorite hole-in-the-wall hot dog joint, The Spot). We could be eating four dogs or six dogs. Probably not more than ten. My kid brother will be competing as well, so there's a little bit of family bragging rights at stake here.

So really, I'm just looking for some tips on how to eat hot dogs reallyfast. I'm not looking for personal trade secrets here (feel free to keep those to yourself). Just "Dog 101" stuff. I'll be doing some experimenting on my own. Solomon method versus Japanese. Various degrees of dunking. Chipmunking versus a more traditional, picnic-style approach. You know, the usual drills. Thanks in advance!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

"Cyberfyber Film" reveals "reversal" moment at Nathan's

On November 22, 1963, Abraham Zapruder, standing tall at his vantage point on the now infamous grassy knoll, shot an amateur video that has fueled the conspiracy surrounding the JFK assassination for nearly half a century. On a cloudy and humid July 4th in the year 2006, an aspiring video journalist perched atop the press stage at the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest may have captured something of startlingly similar magnitude. This five minute and 24 second piece of blurry footage could go down in the annals of competitive eating history – nay, world history – as the “Cyberfyber Film.”

Sorry, I was channeling my inner George Shea for that introduction. Here’s the deal, there's a lot of
hoopla (mostly in tight competitive eating circles) about the alleged Koby "reversal of fortune" late in the Nathan's hot dog contest. In the ESPN coverage, which I TiVo'd and have watched several times already, you see a tight shot of Joey Chestnut pointing at Koby after he witnesses the champ struggling to keep hot dog #51 down.

The "Chestnut pointing to Koby" moment happens with 45 seconds left in the contest. Chestnut gets wide-eyed, looks frantically at a judge while pointing across his chest at Koby with his right hand, and NATHANS - Joey points on ESPNthen begins eating with a renewed ferocity. The whole thing lasts about two seconds. Unfortunately, the ESPN camera wasn't on Koby at the time, but about 8 seconds later, when it is, you can clearly see something dark -- what looks like a half tootsie roll-sized piece of hot dog -- fall out of his nose, which Koby quickly wipes away with his left shirt sleeve. Since the ESPN footage is difficult to view online, a photo of the "Joey pointing" moment is above. The "Koby tootsie-roll" was unable to be photographed.

But what happened at the 11:15 mark to see to make Chestnut react the way he did? Did he see something? Did he hear something? Hopefully he didn't feel something. Surely someone in that sea of print and television reporters captured the moment from a different angle.

Enter the Cyberfyber Film. This clip contains the last two-and-a-half minutes of the contest and few minutes of the aftermath. At 1:45 into the clip, Koby appears to struggle and brings his cup up to his mouth rather quickly. At 1:46, Pat Bertoletti, who was eating to Koby's left and was watching him closely throughout, points at Koby which prompts Chestnut to do the same at approximately 1:47. The Kobayashi "sleeve wipe" occurs at 1:54.

A screenshot of the "pointing" moment is below. From the bottom right, overlapping a seated Chip Simpson's head, is yet another pointer, presumably a judge. That pointer, along with Chestnut (but not Bertoletti), can also be seen at 8 seconds into this clearer video (heretoafter referred to as the "Lizworking Film") shot by Liz from Urban Honking (or at least posted by her).

Koby Pointing Frame

Who really knows what happened? Did he throw up just a little? If so, IFOCE rules state that it has to hit the table or ground to be a DQ situation. Could the Cyberfyber Film -- like the Zapruder Film before it -- raise more questions than answers? Will an independent panel of Congressionally-appointed investigators be analyzing this blurry footage in a dark and smokey room several months from now? Twenty years from today, will Oliver Stone come out of retirement to direct a semi-fictional and sensationalized account of the day's events? Perhaps.

But for now, we are free to invent our own "
magic hot dog" theories, concoct magnificent assumptions of high-level cover ups and agonize over Kobayashi's every movement during those precious and inconclusive few seconds. We will watch and rewind again and again as the champ's head lurches forward and to the left. Forward and to the left. Forward...

And to the left.

ANALYSIS & OPINION: I should preface this by saying that I’m a Kobayashi fan, but here’s my take. He heaved (not vomited). No big deal. When you heave – especially with 50 hot dogs inside you – stuff comes up, whether it’s from your stomach or whatever is still lodged in your esophagus. Nearly all eaters heave at one point or another. The test is whether or not they can keep it down.

And that's what Koby did. He kept kept it down and he kept it off the table and the IFOCE rules say that’s okay. The fact that he was able retch in his mouth, swallow it, and keep on eating during the final minute of the contest is further proof of just how amazing this guy is. If anything, this video only strengthens Kobayashi’s already legendary status as the greatest eater of our generation. Case. . .closed?

UPDATE: Gersh Kuntzman, New York Post reporter and the judge assigned to oversee Kobayashi's performance during the Nathan's contest, offers his analysis here, including why Koby was credited with 53 3/4 dogs instead of 54. Incidentally, he was the mysterious "third pointer" seen in the Cyberfyber Film.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

George Shea ain't half bad (but he does sweat a lot)

One final note about the Nathan's contest . . .before tomorrow, when I post my report on the alleged Koby reversal moment.

I have to admit, going into the contest I wasn't sure what to expect from George Shea, co-founder of the IFOCE and Nathan's emcee extrodinaire (him at left with Sonya Thomas, thanks Steakbellie). All I knew from occasional sound bites and quotes was that he's prone to exaggeration, moderately manic, and more than a little overly dramatic.

Turns out, he was all of those things, but he's also the man responsible for making a 12-minute hot dog contest something worth cheering for when you can't really see more than three of the eaters.

Damn, I wish I had taken a tape recorder to capture some of this tirades and one-liners that day. At least wish I had transcribed his "Teenage Wasteland" monologue that he practiced three times before the contest (that was the three or four minute ramble that accompanied Koby and Joey's trips skyward in those pedestal things during the eater intros). He tried so hard to time it to coincide with the end of the song and admited each time when he missed it by a second or two. He didn't get it right during the contest either, but it didn't really matter.

He's probably part of the reason I was still so "in the moment" when, 20 minutes after the contest ended, I was scrambling to get a picture of Kobayashi like a 12-year-old girl who's just spotted Donnie Wahlberg after a New Kids on the Block concert (sorry, I'm kind of old). Hell, Shea's emcee work would probably make me clamour for a better look at the winner of a local father/son three-legged sack race as they piled into their Ford Explorer after taking a post-contest spin on the Tilt-a-Whirl.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Kobayashi "reversal" investigation underway

You may have heard about it here, but I'm launching a semi-unofficial investigation into the alleged Nathan's hot dog "Kobayashi Reversal" incident. A team of video experts (me) will review several pieces of amateur footage over the weekend and I will post an in-depth (and mostly tongue-in-cheek) report on the matter on Sunday. That is all.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

My post-Nathan's encounter with Kobayashi, the eater bus, and his maniacal fans (working title)

NATHANS - Me at NathansYeah, so Heather and I went to catch the Nathan's hot dog eating contest on Coney Island this weekend. All things considered, it was a great time. It was really cool to see all of the best eaters competing on the same stage, including the elusive and uber-legendary Takeru Kobayashi. Aside from his sprint across the stage and dramatic hoisting into the sky on the platform pictured in my previous post, we didn't really get to see much of him from our vantage point.

That is, of course, until about 20 minutes after the contest. We had finally abandon our spots against the metal partitions and had pushed through the still dense and giddy crowd when we saw him again. My first NATHANS - Koby Signingindication that something was happening was the rush of people pushing past me as I approached Badlands Booker for a photo op. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Kobayashi's Nathan's yellow hair as he was being escorted to the eater's bus about 100 feet away. At this point he was only six feet away from me and I was sort of being swept up in the crowd and the emotion. Not one to miss an opportunity, I grabbed my camera to get a few more pics of the champ. (Actually, Heather handed it to me after snapping a few of her own, but she knew I'd be much more "paparazzi-like" in my photographic pursuit.)

The fanatacism of the crowd for this guy is hard to explain. It was like a rock star had just exited the back door of a venue and was making a mad dash for the tour bus. There he was, flanked by his interpreter and an NYPD officer, being hustled to the bus and the crowd, now hundreds in mass and overwhelmingly Asian, was screaming his name and pushing inward on him with no barracades left to separate this seemingly ordinary Japanese man from his ravenous fans.

So I followed (perhaps I myself am a "ravenous fan") and got these photos. The view from right side of the bus NATHANS - Koby and Sonya on Buswas limited, so I went around to the driver's side where I was able to press my camera against the dark tinted windows and snap some great shots that came out surprisingly well (it looks almost as if I were inside the bus). It wasn't until I uploaded these pictures 12 hours later that I realized Sonya Thomas was also onboard (see at right), relaxing after doing her 37 hot dogs and no doubt giggling at the crazy scene unfolding outside.

Koby sat on the bus steps and did a television interview (someone said ESPN, but I'm not sure) and was then escorted back to the stage area. Below is the return trip as he adjusts his Nathan's headband.

NATHANS - Koby Leaving the BusI know I promised a post about why I'm such a competitive eating geek, but that'll happen on Friday. It'll sort of be a continuation of this post. Basically an epiphany I had on the drive home while reflecting on the weird, awe
struck sense I felt while being swept up in the Koby crowd and snapping these photos.

A full set of my Nathan's photos can be seen

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

NEW HOT DOG RECORD! Kobayashi holds off Chestnut in 53.75 to 52 victory

The picture says it all. I took this during the pre-contest introductions and Koby definitely had the appetite to back up the physique, downing a record breaking 53 and 3/4 hot dogs to beat Joey Chestnut by one and three quarter dogs. Awesome contest and the best non-media and VIP view in the house. We got there exactly four hours before the event and were among the first 30 or so people there. By the end of the day, the 60th Precinct of the NYPD placed the estimated attendance at between 20 and 25 thousand.

The top six, according to the Beaufort Gazette (the Beaufort Gazette is the best source of finisher rankings, how messed up is that?) are:

1. Takeru Kobayashi - 53.75 dogs and buns

2. Joey Chestnut - 52

3. Sonya Thomas - 37

4. Pat Bertoletti - 34.5

5. Tim "Eater X" Janus - 33

6. Chip Simpson - 33

That's an impressive total by Eater X. He's probably pretty stoked about that, considering his qualifying total was 27.5. Bertoletti and Thomas also bested their qualifying totals, while Simpson fell short (he downed 38 in a June 17 match).

The first six minutes (shot by someone from the press box) can be seen here. The second six minutes are here. (Check out Chestnut's freakish, convulsive technique! That's him on Koby's right.) Totals of the top five are here, including a minute-by-minute breakdown. You can see Chestnut settled into a one or two dog lead from minutes 2:30 to 8:30 before Koby turned the tables. Full totals for the 18 eaters aren't available yet, but I'll link 'em when I find 'em.

Tomorrow I'll post a flickr link to about 50 pictures that I took at the event, including a write up about my post contest run-in with Koby, a throng of rabid fans, and some personal reflections on why the hell I'm such a geek when it comes to competitive eating.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Lightly buttered and suitable for framing

Saw this picure last week on SuperSizedMeals.com and had to post it. It's 2,500 pieces of toast arranged in 16.5 foot by 15 foot collage to look like, well, you can see for yourself. Pretty cool, huh? By the way, if you're not already reading SuperSizedMeals.com, you're missing out on some great news about giant burgers, giant ice cream cakes, giant bagels, and more giant burgers (giant burgers rock!).