BEST OF THE BEST

Why Joey Chestnut belongs in the pantheon of all-time greats

Photo by Getty Images.

Death, taxes and Joey Chestnut winning the July 4th Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest.

The 36-year-old scoffed down a new world record of 75 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes to win his 13th Mustard Yellow Belt for the 13th time in 14 years. Chestnut's 75 Hot-Dogs broke his own record of 74 that he set in 2018. His 13 championships are now more than double the next highest total on the men's side. Takeru Kobayashi won 6.

Right now you can argue that nobody does their job better in the world than Chestnut does his. Chestnut won by 33 hot dogs and buns over second-place finisher Darron Breedon, who ate 42 hot dogs and buns. The 33 hot-dog-and-bun margin of victory is the largest since the Super Bowl of competitive eating split into men's and women's events in 2011. Chestnut belongs in the pantheon of all-time sports greats.

Chestnut is the closest thing to Babe Ruth we have seen in any athlete since the "Sultan of Swat" changed baseball forever. Ruth used to outhomer entire teams and now we see Chestnut outeat the total of multiple eaters combined. Chestnut is greatness personified and the most dominant athlete I have ever seen in my lifetime.

To any hater out there saying Chestnut is not a real athlete and competitive eating is not a sport, here is why you are wrong. Chestnut trains year-round to compete on the competitive eating circuit. Chestnut also has world records in Big Mac burgers and Hooters hot wings. He has a unique set of skills just as a NASCAR driver or a golfer does, and we don't question the validity of those sports? So why should we question Chestnut's?

Here are some Chestnut stats that will put his dominance in perspective. If you combine the titles of Michael Jordan and Tom Brady you are still one championship short of Chestnut's 13 Mustard Belts. Yogi Berra won 10 championships in baseball and Bill Russell won 11 championships in basketball and both don't match the total of Chestnuts.

The Nathan's Hot Dog eating contest averages 2 million viewers every year. That is a huge number for a sport that is known for only one main event once a year. Take that Peter King.

It has been said that the NFL owns a day of a week. Well, Joey Chestnut owns the 4th of July. What is more American than that?

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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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