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

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.


Anonymous Pat From Moonachie said...

I would've called it the "Zapuker Film", myself...I thought I saw a "Second Eater" in the "Gassy Knoll"! ;)

3:55 PM

Anonymous Liz said...

Excellent work; I agree with your analysis here.

10:19 PM

Blogger Mega Munch said...

Zapuker! That's perfect! By the way, Pat...when you were holding that little girl after the Nathan's contest, you were only about three feet from me. Small world...or I'm stalking you.

And thanks Liz. It took me several very long and labor-intensive minutes to analyze this footage. My eyes hurt a bit afterwords and, believe it or not, I was a little bit hungry too.

8:21 AM

Blogger Krista said...

Nicely done!

7:24 PM


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