HOT DOG!

Ken Hoffman's inside scoop on hot dog king Joey Chestnut's controversial Nathan's Famous world record

Joey Chestnut was ready to break his previous world record. Photo by Ken Hoffman

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. 

Read more at CultureMap.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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