For fans of competitive eating, the Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest at Coney Island is like the Kentucky Derby. One of the oldest eating competitions in the Unites States, the 12-minute orgy of meat-tube gluttony goes down each Fourth of July at noon, just as regularly as fireworks at 9 p.m. But this year things will be different.
Recently unearthed notes from the earliest days of the contest reveal that it was initially designed as a 10-minute pig-out, not 12. According to the Brooklyn Paper, which broke the story last week, Major League Eating chairman George Shea made the decision to cut the contest back two minutes after reviewing the notes, unearthed by Nathan’s.
Shea allowed The Brooklyn Paper an exclusive look at the notations, which were in a lady’s neat handwriting scrawled on a program from the 23rd annual convention of the Optical Society of the State of New York, which was held at the Hotel St. George in Brooklyn Heights in 1918.
“Handwerker’s frankfurter rules,” the scribbles state, a reference to Nathan Handwerker, who opened Nathan’s in Coney Island in 1916 and oversaw the celebrated first hot-dog-eating contest that year, which, according to legend was won by Jim Mullen with 13 hot dogs and buns. Last year’s winner set a record with 66 HDBs in 12 minutes.
But according to the scribbles on the Optical Society program, Handwerker’s “rules” in the early years consisted of a noon contest that lasted “10 minutes.”
A New York Times article from 1986 also referred to a 10-minute contest. That, combined with the handwritten notes, solidified the decision to pare down this year’s competition to it’s “original” length, the Brooklyn Paper reported Saturday.
Last year’s champion, Joey Chestnut, of San Jose, Calif., called the change “ridiculous”. Another competitive eater anonymously charged contest organizers with trying to “sanitize” the show by preventing contestants from throwing up bits of Nathan’s hot dogs.
Shea denied that, calling himself a “strict constructionist” regarding the contest’s rules.
Call off the dogs: Nathan’s frank contest goes on a two-minute diet [Brooklyn Paper]
Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs [Official Site]
Major League Eating [Official Site]