After the Gorge

Last Friday, on July 4, I went out to Coney Island for the Nathan’s hot dog eating contest, in which the great Kobayashi was beaten for the second straight year by Joey Chestnut. I wanted to see what I could learn about the sport of competitive eating, and I learned quite a bit.

If all goes as planned, we’ll touch on the subject in SuperFreakonomics. In the meantime, here’s a picture I took of the contest aftermath, showing the floor of the stage where the contestants stood while chowing down.


If you look hard, you can see trace evidence of Kobayashi and Sonya Thomas, who did a good Q&A here in anticipation of the July 4 event. You can also see bits and pieces of dog and bun that may persuade you to go vegan for a week or two.


Is Marijuana a performance enhancer?


Ian: You need to be careful with the use of "should" when referring to other people. You think eating contests *should* be boycotted, I may think think that people who criticize eating contests *should* be publicly flogged. The moment it becomes allowable for an individual to decide what other people *should* do you have moved a big, big step down the road to dictatorship. You are free to collect enough public support for a ban but given that it was televised, somebody thinks there is money to be made showing it so you are most likely in a small minority right now.

You are free to boycott if you like. Fortunately, the rest of us are free to tell you to that we will do what we are are legally allowed, regardless of what you think we *should*.

Stacey Ross

Just because something is difficult to do doesn't make it a "sport." Maybe next there will be a "competitive defecation" sport. Except that I think the competitive eaters would probably already have an unfair advantage.


wonder if there's any doping going on- motility agents or botox come to mind- an iliostomy would truly be hardcore


Buka & Matt-

Ian's comment was that eating contests should NOT be banned; rather, he just claimed that they are wrong. I don't need to agree: since I think eating contests are boring, no ethical decision needed.


It sounds like Ian McKay is one of the many people on this planet with more so-called compassion than sense.

Ian McKay

Eating contests are an abomination. How can people be that insensitive to people without food. Why not hold a cigar smoking contest outside a cancer treatment clinic. Should eating contests be banned? Certainly not. Should they be boycotted? Certainly so.

Garry S

The link to "a good Q&A here" does not seem to be working.


lol...these guys showed up on today - the greatest rivalries link...up there Gretzky and Lemieux


I can't find the link (I want to say that I readit in the WaPo about a year ago), but there was an interesting bit about many male competitors insinuating that Sonya Thomas was cheating/vomiting. It stunk of jealousy/sexism.


I agree with the previous post by Ian McKay. Eating contests are an abomination. Also, all sporting events should be banned, in deference to those who are paralyzed or just plain lazy. Preach on brother!


As an aspiring competitive eater and having attempted some of the gurgitation that these masters do with ease, I am doubly impressed by Chestnut and Kobayashi.

They both truly are athletes at the top of their games. Much was made of the rivalry between Nadal and Federer at the French Open and then Wimbledon. I see a parallel rivalry here. The veteran champion, previously insurmountable (in the case of Kobayashi, literally, with Federer, very near literally), has now been surpassed by a newer-to-the-sport rival after years of magnificent dominance. But let's not for a moment think we've seen the last of Kobayashi or Federer. Great champions don't go quietly into the night...

Dave G

It took only one ambitious trip to Old Country Buffet to convince me that I would rather get in the ring with Mike Tyson than take part in competitive eating.


Whoa the thumbnail link for this article looked like a photo of bombs falling down and devastating a bird's-eye view of a city kilometers below. Thanks for tripping me out

Brian Subich

I wonder if Ian's mother/grandmother/wife/girlfriend has more than 5 pair of shoes? Wouldn't that be an abomination to those in third world countries who would love to have just one pair? How about all the NASCAR fans who all drive their gas guzzling SUV's & pickups to a race track every weekend to watch the waste of thousands of more gallons of gasoline when so many people are struggling to pay for their own. The waste of eating contests will never come close to the waste of a restaurant or fast food joint.


Major League Eating: The Game is out on Monday on WiiWare, the Nintendo Wii downloadable game system, so everyone can participate in the grace, goodness and magic that is competitive eating!



You do realize that Buka added a healthy dose of sarcasm to his comment, don't you?

Joshua T

As a lover of eating mass quantities of food I still have a hard time watching someone choke down that much in that short of a time. As far as it being banned where would America be if we couldn't hold contests that displays the one thing we share as a country....waste

(I am glad that Chestnut won!)


The sport that really offers something for everybody is Reguttal, a combination of competitive eating and debate. Here's an example with world class competitive eater, Erik 'The Red' Denmark.


I said that eating contests should NOT be banned.

They are obviously an important part of the low brow Olympics. The triathlon consisting of eating, belching and vomiting.

These are tremendous athletes indeed.