Sunday, July 3, 2011

Taking the fun out of the Coney Island July 4th hot dog eating contest


Kobi when he was welcome on Coney Island
By GARY BAUMGARTEN
It’s really supposed to be fun, the world famous hot dog eating contest on New York’s famed Coney Island. Not about contract disputes, arrests and protests from exile.
But the contest is losing some of its allure. Because the reality of real life is creeping in.
God help us all.
This all started last Fourth of July. When former hot dog eating world champion Takeru Kobayashi (he won six years in a row) was aced out of competition in a contract dispute with the organizers. So he stormed the stage (to the delight and cheers of thousands of onlookers) wearing a “Free Kobi” tee-shirt.
That got him arrested. Arrested! And tossed into the clank overnight.
Charges were dropped – if he agreed to stay out of trouble. But come on. Arrested? Even the wrestling federations don’t take this kind of stuff this seriously.
Oh yes, I know, this is supposed to be a real contest, not fake entertainment. But can somebody just take a step back, a deep breath, and stop to remember it’s only a hot dog eating contest, for goodness sakes.
This year, still in exile, unable to participate and under threat of arrest should he show up again, Kobi will instead be in a Manhattan bar, watching the Brooklyn competition live via satellite, and competing against the official contestants from afar.
His results – even if he wins – will be unofficial and not recognized. But I for one would rather be with Kobi than the official eaters. If only to show some support and to remind myself that it’s supposed to be all in fun!

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