Jennifer D. Wade Journal

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An American Fourth

One thing about working in television, you develop a sense of time.  You learn that you really can write a story in just two minutes.  You also learn that three seconds can seem like a very long time when you're sitting in black.  Even so, until today, I never realized just how long 12 minutes can be.

12 minutes is how long contestants at the annual NATHAN'S FAMOUS HOT DOG EATING CONTEST are given to gorge themselves on hot dogs and buns.  Maybe the time passes quickly if you are the one shoving the food in your mouth.  But, to watch it on television, 12 minutes is a very, very long time.

Over the years, I've seen highlights of competitive eating contests.  But, to sit there and watch one in its entirety - Ugh!  12 solid minutes of people - male and female, younger and older - stuffing as much food into their mouths as they possibly can; people bouncing up and down while they eat so the food will go to the bottom of their stomachs and leave room for yet more food.  It's horrifying yet somehow fascinating at the same time.  I didn't want to watch, but I couldn't turn away.  I heard Bob Valvano describe it as I listened to ESPN RADIO on my way into work.  Bob's word of choice:  "hideous."  Yep.  That pretty much sums it up, especially the part where second-place finisher Kobayashi appeared to suffer what's known in the world of competitive eating as a "reversal of fortune" - which he made every effort to unreverse, if you know what I mean.  HERE is a story which may explain things a little more explicitly.

Admittedly, I tuned in to see the much-hyped showdown between the great Kobayashi and the up-and-coming American Joey Chestnut.  Word on the street had Kobayashi suffering from some sort of problem with his jaw.  Could Joey beat the six-time champ and bring the title back to America on this 4th of July?  I wanted to know.  So, I watched.  Kobayashi managed an astounding 63 hot dogs and buns.  But Joey wolfed down an even more astounding 66 HD&B to earn his first mustard yellow belt.  No one else was even close.

I'm happy for him, I guess.  But, now that I've really seen it, I don't need to see it again.  At least not all 12 minutes of it.  A few highlights are plenty to satisfy my appetite. 

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