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HOT DOG! Nathan's July 4th eating contest back in prime time on ESPN

By Zach Campbell

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Coney Island's famous hot-dog-eating contest has reclaimed its rightful spot at high noon on July 4.

The event was booted three hours back by ESPN earlier this month due to a scheduling conflict with its coverage of the “gentlemen's” quarterfinals at Wimbledon, the elite British tennis championship. At the time, organizers, competitors and fans alike boiled at the thought of competitive hot dog eating sitting second to another sport.

Now the decision has been reversed and the contest has been moved back to noon on Independence Day, putting the event at what Major League Eating (MLE) owner George Shea has described as the “patriotic epicenter of the year,” and as such the only appropriate time to attempt eating more than fifty hot dogs in one sitting.

Shea attributed the decision to the event's history. “ESPN recognized that this event has a long history at noon, and that it happens at a certain time and place,” Shea explained, “at noon, on the Fourth, in Coney Island.”

The historic chow-down at Surf and Stillwell avenues will be broadcast live on ESPN3 at noon, as well as at 3:00 p.m. on ESPN.

Others have speculated that the reversal was prompted by the NYPD, to spread out the crowds. With the hot-dog-eating contest expected to attract nearly 30,000 people, a Brooklyn Cyclones game at 6:00 p.m. and the usual holiday traffic, Coney is sure to be packed.

“They've got a game, they've got us, it's the fact that Coney Island will be on fire,” echoed Shea.

Fans are due to hit Coney starting at 10 a.m., with a pre-contest show involving an Olympic diving champion, an FDNY employee, Miss New York, and an apple pie 4 feet deep and 15 feet in diameter.

The Brooklyn Nets will also play their first game of H.O.R.S.E. in Brooklyn, according to event organizers, with MarShon Brooks challenging onlookers.

Competitors will take on Joey Chestnut, the current Nathan's champion, who earned the world record after eating 68 hot dogs and buns (HDBs) in 10 minutes. Speculation after the original schedule change had led some to say the afternoon heat would give the thinner eaters an edge, but the contest's move back to high noon now puts them all on equal footing.

This year is the second in which separate competitions will be held for men and women. Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas, at 5-foot-5 and 100 pounds, is the reigning champ and world record holder for her division, at 41 HDBs in 10 minutes.

Not competing for the third year in a row is Takeru Kobayashi, the former world champion who, unwilling to give up exclusive rights to his gut, fell into contract disputes with Major League Eating in 2010. Kobayashi will compete in a parallel hot-dog-eating contest, the Crif Dog Classic, to be held on the same day at 11 a.m. in Bushwick outside Roberta's pizza.

The schedule change for the Nathan's event could come as a surprise to hardcore competitive eating fans, who would have been able to attend both events given the old schedule.

They'll now have to choose between tradition and modernity, and whether it will be in Bushwick or Coney Island that they celebrate professional eating's proudest day. Frankly, it won't be easy.

July 1, 2012 - 11:15pm


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