Takero Kobayashi’s reign as the greatest eater since the invention of food could be over.
The 29-year-old from Japan, whose appetite for fame took him to Coney Island where he won six straight Fourth of July hot dog eating contests, has developed arthritis of the jaw during training for this year’s event.
Gluttons everywhere are in mourning.
For Americans, the irony is hard to swallow. Kobayashi chewed up the best America had to offer and he did it on the Fourth of July. The trim 167-pounder often outate men twice his size, setting a record each year. Last year he voraciously disposed of 533/4 doggies in 12 minutes.
His fame knew no limits. He went on a national tour, including an appearance on the “Big Chuck and Little John Show” on FOX8 where he won a pizza eating contest. The live studio audience hung on every word, even though Kobayashi speaks no English. Understanding English, however, never was a prerequisite for appreciating the “Big Chuck and Little John Show.”
This year, however, Kobayashi knew he would have to eat at least 60 bowsers and their buns to retain his record because the next great eater has emerged.
Joe Chestnut, a 22-year-old Californian, who was second to Kobayashi at Coney Island last year with 52 hot dogs consumed, won the Southwest Regional Hot Dog Eating Championships in Tempe, Ariz., on June 2 with a world-record 591/2 hot dogs in 12 minutes.
Learning of this performance, Kobayashi increased his training. Just as Babe Ruth’s 60 homers were once considered unreachable, 60 was the magic number in hot dog eating. No one could consume 60 dogs and live. If you ate 60 hot dogs, the guy who handed you the trophy would be the coroner.
But that’s what Kobayashi tried to do and he became the victim of overtraining. His jaws crashed. At best he’s on the disabled list indefinitely. At worst, his career is over and he’ll live out his days eating sushi from a blender and
tapioca through a straw.
On his Tokyo Web site, Kobayashi announced that he could open his jaws wide enough for only a finger, not wide enough for a Nathan’s Incredible Hot Dog and bun, the official hot dog of the Coney Island Hot Dog eating contest. Any wider and the pain was unbearable.
It looks as though there will be a new owner of the “Yellow Mustard Belt.”
Dan Coughlin is a columnist for The Chronicle-Telegram
and a sportscaster for Channel 8. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.