Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest 2012: Competition Lacks Luster Without Kobayashi

David DanielsSenior Writer IJuly 3, 2012

NEW YORK - JULY 4:   Chairman of Major League Eating George Shea (L) speaks as Takeru Kobayashi (C) of Nagano, Japan and Patrick 'deep dish' Bertoletti (R) look on after Joey Chestnut of San Jose, California defeated them in the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July hot dog eating contest on July 4, 2009 in Coney Island in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  Chestnut defeated Kobayashi with eating 68 to his 64.5 hotdogs. Kobayashi won six previous competitions before tying last year with Chestnut.  (Photo by Yana Paskova/Getty Images)
Yana Paskova/Getty Images

Let him eat!

In the 2012 Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, the crowd is sure to be chanting for Takeru Kobayashi’s freedom once again. While Joey Chestnut has emerged as the sport’s (and I use that term loosely) new superstar, the competition isn’t the same without the Japanese eating machine.

Because he refuses to sign a contract with Major League Eating, Kobayashi will instead participate in the Crif Dog Classic on the same day. It’s a downright shame that he and Chestnut won’t be sharing the same stage for the third straight year. Kobayashi failing to compete head-to-head with Chestnut would be like if Roger Federer retired as soon as Rafael Nadal emerged as a contender—it ruins what would’ve been a legendary rivalry.

Kobayashi won six straight Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contests from 2001-2006. During that period of time, he was the Michael Jordan of competitive eating. In 2007, though, Kobayashi ran into a younger, hungrier competitor (pun intended) in Chestnut who went on to win three straight of his own.

The last two years, Kobayashi, he didn’t even take part in the event.

In 2010, Verena Dobnik of the Associated Press reported that he showed up at the contest as a spectator, but he had to be dragged away in handcuffs by police after he charged the stage. That’s when the crowd broke out in a chant of, “Let him eat! Let him eat!” (via NBC Sports)

Last year, he unofficially broke Chestnut’s world record of 68 hot dogs in 10 minutes by inhaling 69 at a Manhattan bar. The American had set the record in Kobayshi’s last Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest appearance. Thanks to TMZ, we have a video of the impressive feat.

Hopefully in 2013, Kobayashi and Major League Eating will come to an agreement that will give the people what they want: Kobayashi vs. Chestnut.


David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.