It’s been five days since Joey Chestnut won the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest for the sixth consecutive year, tying his own world record by eating 68 dogs. Perhaps I could have eaten 68 between the time he started and now, but I’m glad I didn’t attempt that.
Of course, the annual competition brought up the old argument about what is a sport and what is not a sport? That argument has been going on about sports and activities since before competitive eating was even invented. I can’t imagine most people believing it is a sport, but Chestnut says it’s obvious to him that it’s a sport because of the competition and training involved.
Joey Chestnut joined XX Sports Radio in San Diego with Josh and Charod to discuss the pain of competitive eating, at what hot dog number the mental strength becomes a factor, how he celebrated the victory, what his doctor says about what he’s doing to his body, the weirdness of Kobayashi, if competitive eating is a sport and what he eats when he just has a leisurely meal.
Is there pain in competitive eating?:
“It’s weird. There’s no real direct pain, but every day my body is telling me to stop. There’s a mental thing where I’m making my body do what I want it to do when everything is just saying, ‘Stop.’ Even when the other eaters are stopping, I just have to push past what feelings I have.”
At what number of hot dogs would you say that kicks in?:
“Usually right about 40 hot dogs, that’s the point where we all start slowing down. That’s where you can really tell I’m working. I’m making funny faces. It looks like every hot dog is work. That’s where it’s no longer fun to eat. The first 30 hot dogs are fun. I love to eat, naturally. But the last hot dogs, the last 35 hot dogs, those are the tough ones. Those are the ones that separate the men from the boys.”
When other people win championships, they go out that night and celebrate. What do you do?:
“I tried to go out, but after the contest, I had to do interviews and stuff for about an hour and a half or two hours and then I’m exhausted. The food’s settled deep in my stomach and all of my body’s energy goes toward digesting and then I fall asleep. I was in bed for about four hours, then I woke up running to the bathroom and then I made it out at about 11 p.m. that night drinking, and the bars are open until 4.”
What do doctors tell you about what you do for a living?:
“It took a long time for me to find the right doctor. Most doctors, they’re really book smart, and most doctors will tell you that boxing’s not healthy or even marathon-running isn’t healthy, to a degree. I found a doctor who appreciates competition and sport and my doctor says it’s just like anything — it’s how you recover, how you prepare for it and how long am I going to be doing this to my body? And what can I do to minimize the long-term effects? My normal diets pretty good and I try to exercise, even though I hate it.”
Every great champ has a great nemesis and it appeared Kobayashi would be yours, but what’s going on with him right now?:
“Oh, he’s off. He makes excuses about injuries and he comes out and even though he ate better than he ever had before, he says he was injured, that’s why he lost. And after he loses a couple times, he says his contract is bad and he doesn’t want to compete with that contract even though it’s the same contract he’s been competing with for nine years, the same contract I’m eating with.”
Is this a sport and are you an athlete?:
“I consider myself an athlete. I consider it a sport. But I can see that there’s arguments from people who say it’s not a sport. … There’s people who can pick things apart if they try, but if you actually look at competitive eating and watch the contests, you’ll see that we’re pushing each other and you see the competition among the people on stage. It’s obvious it’s a sport. We didn’t just wake up in the morning and say, ‘I feel like eating 68 hot dogs.’ I trained for that contests for weeks and weeks and weeks and I tried to peak on the day of the event.”
What do you order when you just want to sit down and eat leisurely?:
“I love to eat. That’s one thing about me, I love eating and I love competition, but if it’s good food, I sometimes get carried away. … I sometimes eat more than most people, but for the most part I keep track of my calories. I’ll eat normal-sized portions. … Next weekend I’ll probably be going to a baseball game and I’ll probably have a hot dog.”