Apparently the 2020 version of the Nathan's Famous July Fourth Hot Dog Eating Contest trudged on Saturday without fans or proper social distancing between mustard and mayonnaise.

Unfortunately I missed the festivities.

But, when tempted to dig into the archives again, we have a saying around here: If you've seen (and written about) one hot dog-eating contest, you've seen (and written about) all of them.

So we will trace back to the 2017 event, which I did watch, and which produced the following dispatch:


Hate to rain on the parade, but stop the fireworks.

Sure, we've got a lot to be proud of in just 241 short years of independence.

But, America, O beautiful for spacious skies, let's face it: we've got to be better than this. We can be better. We must be better. We're at a crossroads, a critical juncture in our history.

Is this really what we want? Or perhaps I'm asking too much of this Great Land.

Maybe back when Jefferson, Washington and Adams and devilish ol' Ben were toying with the whole "We the People" thing, what they really envisioned — big picture — was a land of the free and a home of enough brave patriots to one day celebrate its birthday by stuffing hot dogs — by the bushel load — down one's throat until one is covered with mustard, and maybe relish, too, from head to toe.

And then call it a sport.

I know it was a sport. The 2017 Nathan's Famous July Fourth Hot Dog Eating Contest was on ESPN. Maybe ESPN2. One of them.

But, according to the Founding Fathers, that makes it a sport in America.

It even had a pregame show. So this is what we fought all those wars for — to be able to gather as one, to put all those petty differences aside, just so we can Make America Great Again by crowning the undisputed Hot Dog Eating Champion of an Otherwise Jealous Free World.

Well, admittedly I still have some doubts. Apparently, this sport is an acquired taste. At a glance, I'd suggest we've done better.

We the People, in order to form a more perfect union, invented baseball, basketball, beer pong, even liberated the world from fútbol with honest-to-God football.

And this is the end result?

A dadgum blasted hot dog-eating contest, nationally televised? OK, maybe I'm being a patriotic snob here. I must say I vaguely knew about this thing, contested annually, I believe, on Coney Island.

But I never really watched it until birthday No. 241. Don't ask why. It just sort of happened. There were fans packed in at this thing to view it live, tons of them, probably paying scalpers' prices.

Most were wearing … what IS that on their heads? Oh, no. Sorry, but in a nation that came up with something as culturally fulfilling as hog hats and cheeseheads, nobody should be reduced to wearing a blasted, oversized faux hot dog atop his dome, even with mustard trimming.

Or maybe I'm getting snooty again. Let's give it a chance. Really. They're introducing the competitive gorgers now, along with their world rankings and … Wait! There are world rankings for this!?

Who knew? By whom? Oh, it's — I swear I wrote it down — here it is. It is sanctioned by Major League Eating, formerly known as the International Federation of Competitive Eating.

OK. So it's not as confusing as boxing. But another question: Where does one hone one's skills for this? Where, when — not to mention the how and the why — does one learn he has the gift of mass hot dog eating?

Are there hot dog-eating travel teams for the youths of this great land? Are overbearing, overeating hot dog parents a problem?

But back to the show, where we learn that the average stomach is "about the size of a Nerf football" with a handy prop — a Nerf football, thankfully, not an actual stomach — for reference.

These professionals — yes, there are cash prizes — through years of training and hard work and much gorgicize, have learned to expand their stomachs two to three times the normal size.

It again begs the question: Why? Why on earth? But who am I to judge?

We are also learning that these are no one-trick ponies and that they went through regional qualifying to get here.

In the field — which includes somebody from Waffle House, Tennessee, who should know better — are champions from the competitive eating world of spam, shrimp, tacos, south Florida sweet corn, even moon pies and, my favorite, "a watermelon-eating champion whose speciality is chicken wings."

But the only one worth being jealous of is from New Orleans, Adrian "The Rabbit" Morgan, the Acme Oyster Eating champion.

We are kind of warned in advance that, on this day, they are all eating for second place.

Joey "Jaws" Chestnut is described as the "Bill Russell" of the sport, "like Jack and Arnie in golf."

I am thinking more John Daly, but what do I know?

Chestnut wins, of course, for the 10th time in 11 years.

I will spare you the gorgy details.

But an adult grown man sets the early pace, hardly burps and eats 72 hot dogs in 10 minutes.

He is wearing at least four or five more hot dogs on his shirt. I'm sure he could not have done it without the love and support of his family.

Let's just say it was not pretty. It was so nauseating to watch that it verily begs for suspension of instant replay. To watch one man eat 72 hot dogs, buns and all, is to feel like you're eating every one of them with him.

To each his own.

But if this is not the direction we want America heading right now, I think I have the solution.

Send all of these guys to Alex Box Stadium at LSU, not to the concession lines, but up to the press box.

Let them — I dare them — eat one of those hot dogs up there.

They'll never touch one again.


Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com

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