Joey Chestnut: Is He an American Hero?

Michael AkelsonCorrespondent IMarch 29, 2010

NEW YORK - JULY 4:   Joey Chestnut (C) of San Jose, California celebrates his victory after defeating Takeru Kobayashi of Nagano, Japan 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

Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie, July 4th.

Does it get more American?

Find me an American over the age of three that has never eaten a hot dog, and I will be greatly impressed.

Call competitive eating what you want, but nobody can dare to insult a Nathan's hot dog.

On July 4th, no matter how disgusting and disturbing it might be, America's focus is set on Coney Island, New York where the annual hot dog eating contest occurs yearly.

Year-in and year-out 20 men will go against their common sense (if they have any), and attempt to eat more hot dogs in the span of 10 minutes than the average man eats in a year.

However, what people fail to realize is that this 'Great American Tradition' was, for a period of six years, dominated by a man from Japan.

And we almost lost it.

Takeru Kobayashi would arrive at the corner of Surf and Stilwell every 4th of July only to break the hearts of American's everywhere, and take the Mustard Belt out of the country where it belonged.

Enter Joey Chestnut.

This 'dynasty' was finally ended back in 2007 when Joey Chestnut downed 66 hot dogs and buns in 12 minutes.

What your probably thinking right now is, who cares?

It takes a true American to realize the importance of this moment.

I'm not suggesting that Joey Chestnut belongs on Mount Rushmore, but a little more patriotism on July 4th would have been nice.

Maybe a little more respect for competitive eating would be nice.

I'm not saying I'm a big competitive eating fan, because I'm not, but maybe our country should take more interest in our last truly American sport, because we almost lost it.

Hot dogs are the great American food, July 4th is the great American day, and Joey Chestnut is the great American that brought the Mustard Belt back to America.

So next July 4th when you tune in to watch Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, that if not for Joey Chestnut, you might just be watching another great American sport/event slip from our grasp.