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Joey Chestnut: Great Athlete or Greatest Athlete?

Ramin Talaie, Getty Images

Competitive eater Joey Chestnut went one for the thumb Monday to cap off this year’s Fourth of July celebration.  He ate 62 hot dogs and buns to capture his fifth straight title at the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest from Coney Island.  That kind of domination puts the distinguished Mr. Chestnut in rarified air in sports.  So whether you think he’s a great athlete or the greatest athlete ever, I know one thing:  He’s a gosh darn American hero.

If you love eating – and judging by obesity rates in this country, you do – you’ve got to be a fan of this masterful masticator.  After smiting the Samurai wonder Kobayashi, Chestnut has rolled off five titles, bringing him to within one of Kobayashi’s six straight championships.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is America at its best.  Forget math scores or whatever, we will not be out eaten!!!  This patriot, this handler of the hot dog watched the Japanese win the title that was rightfully ours for too long.  And like our forefathers before him he stood up and threw off such control.  Like Bill Pullman in Independence Day, Chestnut said: We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to [eat] on, we’re going to [eat a hell of a lot of hot dogs]! Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!”

That’s what I’m talking about!  To win this great trophy is enough, but now Chestnut has gone on to win five straight and put himself up with likes of Jimmy Johnson, Lance Armstrong and John Wooden’s UCLA men’s basketball teams – and he is in no way beneath any of those distinct gentlemen/teams.  He totally belongs up there with them on the Mount Rushmore of American five-peaters, for he plays the only true American sport – Eating, and he brought that title home (take note USA Soccer).

Michael Nagle, Getty Images

Now some of you will note that Kobayashi allegedly beat Chestnut this year.  Kobayashi stood on a Manhattan rooftop and competed against the Nathan’s participants via simulcast and ate 69 hot dogs and buns to set a “record.”  Erroneous! Erroneous I say! Was he eating legitimate Nathan’s hot dogs?  How can we be sure that these weren’t the mini hembolds hot dogs? Unless you’ve been introduced with more vigor than the Michael Jordan Bulls teams, stood in front of thousands, stood toe to toe and not at all disgusting bit of spit to equally not disgusting bit of spit, stared down your opponent, watched another’s reversal of fortune and chipmunked eight hot dogs into your mouth as the bell went off and won – you’re not the champion.  You’re an imitator.

Forever more Joey Chestnut will be recognized as the 2011 Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest Champion.  Next year at Coney Island he’ll go for number six and look to further cement the recent American stranglehold on the event.  And isn’t that the way it should be?  Is there anything better to do when celebrating our country’s birth than watching a great American choke down sixty-something hot dogs and buns in ten minutes?  Not in my book.  That little bit of gluttony is as American as apple pie – which I’m sure there’s a Major League Eating event for – and I’m dang sure an American is dominating.  Congratulations Joey Chestnut.  And God bless the United States of America.

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