America the Beautiful
I consider myself a proud American and when I’m asked what makes America so damn great, I have a list with endless answers. Sure our consistent striving for freedom and liberty are great, and we are the land of diversity and opportunities (although millions of American’s would argue that), and the Constitution might be the single most important document ever written, but what really separates America from the rest of the world is portrayed perfectly on July 4th every year. No, I’m not talking about the fireworks, picnics, family gatherings or days off from work (sorry retail employees), but I am talking about the single-handedly greatest and most competitive competition known to man, Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.
With the Olympics around the corner, the Eurocup just concluding and Wimbledon winding down, some of the world’s greatest athletes are showing off their talents and skills around the world. Unfortunately for those world-class athletes, none of their abilities will ever matchup with the purely gluttonous consumption that only specially invited members of the IFOCE endure on July 4th every year. IFOCE, International Federation of Competitive Eating, might be the most important sports organization that this world has to offer.
Along with Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating contest, the IFOCE also oversee such important events and competitions like “La Costena” (“Feel the Heat” Jalapeño Eating Challenge), the Krystal Square Off (World Hamburger Eating Championship), and were even responsible for the glorious production of FOX’s “Glutton Bowl,” which was a largely celebrated 2-hour eating event. Even though the IFOCE is an international organization, it was founded in 1997 by brothers George and Richard Shea in New York, so I give America credit for all of its glory.
Like all other sports, competitive eating boasts hero’s, villain’s and epic rivalries that keep’s it’s fans on the edge of their seats. Just a few weeks ago, I published an article that talked about “Sports Greatest Rivalries,” and I apologize for leaving off arguably the best one of all. Over the past decade, the feud between Japan’s Takeru Kobayashi and America’s Joey Chestnut, has exemplified exactly what true athletic competition is all about. There hasn’t been this much heat between Japan and America since World War II, and to me that isn’t even comparable, due to the significance of this eating competition. Unfortunately for the competitive eating fans around the world, Kobayashi will not compete in his third straight NHDEC due to a major dispute with IFOCE.
Widely considered the greatest competitive eater of all time, Kobayashi met his match when he ran into the 6-foot 218lb Chestnut on July 4th, 2007. Kobayashi had won the NHDEC (Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest) 6 year’s running and seemed to only be getting stronger year after year. But like his forefather’s, Joey Chestnut knew that for America to remain free and independent he had to stand his ground and shove more meat down his throat than his Japanese competitor. Since 2007, Chestnut remains the reigning champion of the NHDEC and heads into Coney Island Brooklyn, New York as the favorite to bring home his 6th straight championship.
We all know Joey Chestnut as one of the world’s greatest athlete’s as well as the #1 ranked member of the IFOCE, but what my Jewish community knows him best for is his world record 78 matzoh balls consumed in 8 minutes at Kenny & Ziggy’s New York Delicatessen Restaurant in Houston, Texas on March 2, 2008. Yeah, that’s right, the matzoh ball eating contest is hosted in the most Jewish friendly city in America, Houston.
There will be thousands of cheering fans and patriotic supporters attending the NHDEC to watch Chestnut today at 3 PM EST in the classy and clean grounds of Coney Island, New York as he tries to show the world what makes America so damn beautiful. Last year there were 2 million viewers tuning in to ESPN to watch Joey’s jingoistic prowess as he consumed 62 hot dog’s and buns, just 6 short of his world record 68 set in 2009.
So while you sit back and relax today and try to enjoy our country’s Independence, try to remember that it is hero’s like Joey Chestnut that keep us safe and free. Eat your apple pie and enjoy some fireworks with family friends, but just make sure that you tune in today at 3 PM on ESPN to witness what makes America the greatest country in the world.