Ken Hoffman's inside scoop on hot dog king Joey Chestnut's controversial Nathan's Famous world record
This article originally appeared on CultureMap.
Competitive eating legends Joey Chestnut and Miki Sudo repeated as gentlemen's and ladies' champions in a Nathan's Famous July 4th Hot Dog Eating contest filled with controversy, accusations of incompetent judging, hot and saucy weather, and a disqualification for the books.
Chestnut's official count was 74 hot dogs and buns, a new world's record, while Sudo gorged on 37, which is four off the number she ate last year. It was Chestnut's 11th title, Sudo's fifth.
That's what the record books will show. The men's contest ended with judges showing that Chestnut consumed only 64 hot dogs, while a fast recount came up with 74 hot dogs.
The 74 total was certified as official by a local district attorney, so credit Chestnut with a new record, besting the 73.5 hot dogs he inhaled at a Nathan's qualifying contest two years ago.
The inside story
Since I was one of two judges in charge of counting Chestnut's hot dogs, here's the story behind the story:
This was my 11th year as a judge in Coney Island and my third year counting Chestnut's hot dogs. In previous years, judges stood in front of contestants, practically eyeball-to-eyeball. We could see every morsel the contestants ate.
This year, judges stood on a platform well below the contestants. When the contest began, Chestnut was partially hidden behind a mountain of 30 hot dogs, stacked high on paper plates, five to a plate.
Each contestant had two judges in front of him, one to count the hot dogs, the other to flip a scorecard so ESPN could keep a running total for viewers. I was the flipper for Chestnut. My job was to show my scorecard to the ESPN reporter behind me, then turn and show the scorecard to emcee George Shea and the young woman holding a scorecard for the 35,000 fans crowding the corner of Surf and Stillwell in Coney Island. Plus, an ESPN camera person was elbowing me trying to get closeups of Chestnut. So I was pretty busy.
Fact: Judges didn't have a good view of the contestants in action. Poor planning to lower the judges' platform. How can you judge (count) what you can't see?
64 or 74?
When the final whistle blew, my scorecard read 64 hot dogs. Immediately, Chestnut protested, claiming he ate 74. He showed 14 paper plates, demonstrating that he ate 70, plus a remaining plate with only one dog, meaning 74 total.
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