If you had nothing better to do with your Fourth of July, chances are you turned on the television.
If there was nothing particularly riveting on the tube, which there generally isn’t at one o’clock in the afternoon on a holiday, you might’ve tuned in to ESPN.
If these stars of boredom aligned, then you were in for a treat—it meant you were watching the 2012 Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.
According to legend, the contest originated in Brooklyn’s Coney Island on July 4, 1916, when a group of four immigrants had an eating competition with this most American delicacy to determine who was the most patriotic.
96 years later, the great American gluttony is still on display. Last year, the broadcast of the Hot Dog Eating Contest garnered nearly two million viewers and this year, the Surf and Stillwell intersection of Coney Island was visibly full, with thousands of spectators packed shoulder to shoulder.
Since 2001, the event has been dominated by two competitors—Japan native Takeru Kobayashi and Joey Chestnut from San Jose.
For six years, the competition belonged to Kobayashi, who held the title and the Guinness World Record of 53.5 hot dogs and buns (H.D.B.) eaten in 12 minutes.
In 2007, the two went head to head and Chestnut stole the show, eating 66 hot dogs in 12 minutes to Kobayashi’s 63.
And while a contract dispute has kept Kobayashi out of the competition for the last two years, Chestnut has kept on eating. This year, he managed to scarf down 68 beef franks in 10 minutes (the time limit was reduced in 2008), earning his sixth straight title belt.
No, six titles does not make him Michael Jordan. It never will. No realistic comparison will ever be drawn between some of the grittiest performances sport has ever seen and something that could take place between two 300-pound drunkards at a chili cook-off over who is the bigger Lynyrd Skynyrd fan.
But that’s not to say Chestnut’s performance wasn’t impressive in its own right. Each standard Nathan’s Famous hot dog is roughly 309 calories. Chestnut ate 68 of these cylindrical meat surprises, meaning he consumed 21,012 calories worth of hot dogs—or over ten days worth of food—in just .7% of a day’s time.
In total, he inhaled 2,108% of the total fat, 816% of the cholesterol, 1,972% of the sodium and 544% of the carbohydrates recommended of a 2,000 calorie diet each day.
Following his tie of his own Guinness World Record, a visibly queasy Chestnut knew his efforts weren’t all for naught.
In addition to being the guy with the best story at every party he goes to this year, the six-time champ walked away with a $10,000 cash prize.
Dominating the International Federation of Competitive Eating (yes, that is a real federation) year-round, Chestnut makes a decent living. In 2010, he raked in $218,500 in total earnings.
So, as you turn off your TV and begin your Independence Day feast preparation by tossing a few hot dogs on the grill, maybe you too will start to consider how they can bolster your retirement fund.