Begun, the hot dog wars have: Kobayashi-led Crif Dog Classic to challenge Nathan’s Fourth of July eating contest
Jun 28, 2012, 4:32 PM EST
July 4th is around the corner and in the world of competitive eating, there’s a fresh new challenger in town. After two years of rebellion against the competitive eating circuit and Famous Nathan’s annual Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating contest, eating legend Takeru Kobayashi (interview below) has inspired the creation of the “Crif Dog Classic”, a rival eating contest that looks to go head-to-head in knocking down Nathan’s supremacy in the hot dog-eating genre.
Nathan’s has made contestants sign exclusive rights contracts that would only allow eaters to compete in certain ‘league sanctioned’ events, something Kobayashi and his associates fiercely oppose. But they went with the program for nine years, until in 2010 things changed and Kobayashi decided to take a stand. He didn’t sign the contract, and nathan’s kicked him out. Never mind that he helped create a competitive eating empire in the mid-2000′s with his showmanship and pure talent.
But just because he hasn’t been able to eat hot dogs for Nathan’s doesn’t mean he hasn’t been busy on the 4th. In 2010 he was arrested while attempting to climb onto the Nathan’s stage in a bizarre little protest. He didn’t sign the contract in 2011 year either, deciding instead to compete on the rooftop of 230 Fifth, a Manhattan bar. That event was staged with the Coney Island event blaring live on a big screen television behind him. Two judges hired for the day claim Kobayashi ate 69 hot dogs that day, which is one more than the world record and seven more than the winning total Joey Chestnut ate across town, where all the people were.
Kobayashi’s main rival, Chestnut, didn’t have many nice things to say about the stunt. “I think even Kobayashi would agree that the record still stands at 68,” Chestnut said then. “And if he wants to compete with me on the Fourth of July, he knows what he has to do: sign a simple contract and man up.”
When told of Kobi’s claim of eating 69 hot dogs, Major League Eating president George Shea sneered, “The champion of the world is crowned in Coney Island. Always has been, always will be. He put a tin crown on his head and called himself king.”
We’ll see if that sentiment holds true after the Crif Dog Classic has a few years to establish a following and get some momentum going. It will be interesting to see how much of an audience the CDC can take from Nathan’s. To start, they’ve already hired a big name celebrity judge and lead singer/guitarist for the rock-and-roll outfit “The Offspring”, Dexter Holland, who famously wrote the punk rock anthem Pretty Fly For A White Guy. Not too shabby.
Kobi’s ascent back into the public eye and dominance began on February 3, 2012, when a sonic boom of a chicken wing eating performance quieted the Philadelphia doubters. Kobi threw back a Wing Bowl record 337 wings in his first year of competing, set the world record for eating Twinkies on the Wendy Williams show and even did a video for College Humor in which he was force-fed hot dogs and compared to a bear.
But you can really say that the ascent began right before my eyes, while I was hanging out with Bleacher Report’s Josh Zerkle during a “Blogs With Balls” after-party. Kobi’s team hired the HHR Media Group to oversee all public relations, all while Kobi and I were laughing at Sigourney Weaver wordlessly screaming that the Predator was going to get her as we watched a muted bar television in downtown NYC. Wonder why you’ve seen so much of Kobi the past year? Because HHR has been working their butts off to see Kobi back on top. And it’s working.
I was able to shoot a few questions over to Kobayashi regarding the upcoming Crif Dog Classic and he was happy to oblige.
It’s very brave of you to your own tournament. What gave you the courage to go out and stand up to what you view as an unfair competitive environment and begin this tradition?
I don’t consider this being very brave. As for courage, it takes the same amount as someone opening their first shop or selling their first product… Although I know I’m fortunate to have all the support to put it together.
As for standing up for something, there are many others before me who have also stood up for what they believe in competitive eating. I just wanted another option for a stage on July 4th in NYC, which made me think others must as well and would enjoy it, if it existed.
A lot of people make grandiose plans and don’t follow through, how were you able to make the event happen?
Again, I am very fortunate to have people to support my ideas and believe it could be something great. There is a fantastic producer for this event and amazing sponsors- not to mention all of the wonderful friends coming out to take part in different ways.. I can’t express in words how grateful I am to everyone. I am the reason for the notion, but they are the reason it has become a reality.
So the Nathan’s gang will be eating their hot dogs on Coney Island and Kobi’s gang will be eating their hot dogs in Brooklyn and we’ll get to watch a nice little hot dog-based soap opera unfold over the next few years. Who’s going to win? Probably the hot dogs.
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