Is competitive eating a sport? I wouldn't say so. I like the Sports Illustrated definition. If you can't actively play defense, it's not a sport. That doesn't mean it's not competition, or that it's not athletic. But, yes, you can't really play defense in competitive eating. But that doesn't mean I'm any less enthralled by it.
I don't really know why I enjoy watching it so much. The hot dog competition is first and foremost on my competitive eating calendar, as I believe it is for most pro eaters. In fact, it's the only date on that calendar. But I have stumbled across different competitions, and it's a big reason I love watching Man vs. Food, which might be the best show on TV today. And I will watch every time. I've watched Krystal burgers.* I've watched different kinds of pie. I've heard (but not seen. . .yet) of sushi and barbecue. I've seen Adam Richman tackle some of the biggest restaurant challenges in the country and saw some downright amazing dishes. I don't know what it is, but something about eating gross amounts of food in very little time captures my imagination.
*Think White Castle if you don't know that those are. I didn't until I watched that.
It might be hard to imagine, but it seems the former "best eater in the world," Takeru Kobayashi is making a bit of a mockery of things.* I know, it's hard to imagine making a mockery of something as silly as competitive eating. But, after getting himself arrested last year after the competition and this year, he went even further. He staged his own competition on a Manhattan rooftop, video feed of Chestnut's earlier performance and competed against that. There is a video, and he put down 69 hot dogs, which would be a world record.
*The current title holder is, of course, Five-Time Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Champion Joey Chestnut, as pictured above with the coveted Mustard Belt.
Here's my rub, though. If didn't happen at Nathan's, it didn't happen. Or at least at a legit competition. If you're not at the same competition as your competitors, dealing with the same atmosphere and all the other variables, you can't say you hold the record. It just rings hollow. Furthermore, all this does is draw attention to yourself instead of the competition, and makes you look like a petty fool. If you want to beat Chestnut, then go and compete with Chestnut head to head, not against a recording of him.
Until that happens, Chestnut is still number one in our hearts and our record book. Grow a pair, Kobayashi.