June 29, 2005
To Do This Weekend
If it's Fourth of July weekend, it must be time for the annual Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest!
Nothing brings New Yorkers together like competitive eating, and this week New York magazine has jumped on the Amy's Robot bandwagon with a rather touching feature on how our own local favorites are coaching each other to defeat the unstoppable world hot dog eating champion, Takeru Kobayashi. Kobayashi ate 50 hot dogs in 12 minutes in 2001, doubling the previous record. Since then, no other contestant has even come close to matching him. Last year, he downed an unprecedented 53 hot dogs. Allegedly, the rumor among the competitive eating community is that "the Japanese government had his stomach surgically altered to break the will of the U.S. eating community."
But frankly, we don't really care about Kobayashi. What of Eric "Badlands" Booker, the Official Competitive Eater of Amy's Robot? Well, first of all, he has nothing but respect for the current world champion. “Watching him eat is seeing lightning in a bottle, poetry in motion,”* says Badlands. But he's determined not to disappoint his fans: “I get the tough love,” he says. “People come up on the train and are like, ‘Yo, how you let that little guy beat you? You can eat 40 hot dogs and him.’ ”
All the eaters agree that hot dogs are the most challenging food to eat in bulk. "Hot dogs are the most difficult food for competition," says "Hungry Charles" Hardy. "You’re eating two things at once that are both extremely filling—that bread is harder than you think. And the meat is really salty. You get filled up immediately, but you have to keep going." (Kobayashi's signature trick is eating the hot dog and bun separately. Other competitors will sometimes soak the bun in water to make it go down more easily.)
Will any of our New York eaters win the ultimate prize? Probably not. The East Village's "Crazy Legs" Conti is just hoping to achieve "the deuce", finishing 20 hot dogs. Badlands has come closer, eating 41 hot dogs in a trial run - but they were skinless. (“That makes it a lot easier,” he says.)
But here at Amy's Robot, we are all Badlands, all the time. We'll be cheering him on during Monday's live ESPN broadcast, knowing that no matter where he places, no one can ever take that cannoli title away.
* As someone who has personally seen Badlands down seven pounds of cheesecake, collect a trophy, and then head straight over to the sausage stand across the street - well, that's my definition of "poetry in motion."
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