Joey Chestnut won his eighth-straight Nathan's Hotdog Eating Contest on Friday, but the margin of victory was a mere five franks. Chestnut took in 61 hot dogs in 10 minutes, while Matt "Megaload" Stonie managed to consume 56.
Stonie pushed Chestnut to his limit and nearly dethroned the king of all competitive eaters. According to ESPN.com, Chestnut had this to say after battling his way to the victory:
"I could never find my rhythm, so it was just a dogfight the whole time."
In my Booker T. voice, "tell me, he didn't just say that."
While seeing Chestnut make history is a sight, knowing that the man who may one day be king is on the horizon shows the sport is growing.
Stonie is only 22 years old, and it's clear his best days of link consumption are ahead of him. In 2013, he finished in second place with just 51 hot dogs. He improved five franks in a year.
Fans who have followed the sport know that it took Chestnut a few years before he was able to overtake Takeru Kobayashi as the main man at the competitive eating table.
The two waged a war from 2006 to 2008 in what was perhaps the best rivalry the sport has seen. Chestnut rose through the ranks and broke through in 2007 when he was 23. He solidified his dominance with a win at the July 4 tradition in 2008.
Could we be looking at a similar progression with Stonie?
Chestnut did fall well short of the world record pace he set in 2013 when he inhaled 69 hot dogs. Some could see eight less franks as a sign of weakness. If that's the case, Stonie may have his inroad.
Because he's still so young—and Chestnut proved competitive eaters peak close to their 30th birthday—Stonie's peak could coincide with Chestnut's natural decline.
As competitive eating back stories go, this one is as good as it gets.
This is about more than just Chestnut and Stonie, though. For any sport to grow, you need younger fans to follow stars and to aspire to join the ranks. Tim Janus was a distant third with 44 hot dogs. His third-place finish has probably given him the fuel to come back even hungrier next year.
It sounds uninspiring for our youth to aspire to take in mounds of utility meat for sport. It could also be dangerous long-term.
Quoting Marc Levine of the University of Pennsylvania, Abby Abrams of Time Magazine writes:
"If the stomach stretches enough that it can’t get back to its original size, they predict this could potentially cause 'intractable nausea and vomiting, necessitating a partial or total gastrectomy to relieve their symptoms and restore their ability to eat'.”
Still, Chestnut has proved that the intestine-stretching sport can be lucrative.
Chestnut took home $40,000 for his efforts. That's not exactly a Mike Trout-like salary, but then again, these aren't exactly the most finely tuned athletes on the face of the Earth.
In any case, it seems a compelling future is set for fans, thanks to a new group of contenders with a stomach for the sport.