It's what we wanted to hear -- a confirmation that the man himself would actually show up
this year to the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, which is now co-sponsored by Heinz. And no, the eaters don't have to put ketchup on each hot dog.
You see, as has been previously reported and linked by Deadspin , Kobayashi's manager had told a Japanese publication that his mother died in March and hadn't really been training. Had Kobayashi's record of 53 3/4 not been broken by Joey "Jaws" Chestnut, who ate an amazing 59 dogs in 12 minutes earlier this month, I doubt there would be much of an outcry. After all, Kobayashi had an incredible six championships in a row and we were kind of getting tired of this ridiculous domination. But now that Chestnut is legitimately game if Kobayashi bows out now, his greatness will always be questioned.
Despite the event being on July 4, an American hasn't won since Steve Keiner won in 1999 and the Japanese have won nine out of the last 10 contests.
I'd like to leave you with my favorite YouTube video of all time. It's of Kobayashi taking on a bear. My favorite part, as my former ESPN colleague Jim Caple well knows, is when the announcer says, "He doesn't know it's a competition" at around 1:58. Duh.