This is an attempt at a new way of annotating my photos. If you would rather just look at the photos, you can [view the set directly](http://www.flickr.com/photos/remydwd/sets/541846/).
Today, the three of us – Katie, our good friend Thom, and I – trekked out from Astoria at an hour far too early for anyone’s good towards Coney Island, to observe the Nathan’s 2005 Hot Dog Eating Competition.
The contest has gained notority over the last few years, largely because it has been dominated by thin asians – Takeru Kobayashi, a 144 pound Asian guy, and Sonya Thomas, a 100 pound Korean girl. Kobayashi hails from Japan, and had won for the last four years – Sonya has been dominating US events but still has not won the Hot Dog contest due to Kobayashi’s domination. We, for various reasons, are huge Sonya fans – at least, as much as one can be in the “sport” of competitive eating.
We arrived at 10:10 – much earlier than we had intended – and found a reasonable space by the barricade. I spent a lot of time just sort of soaking in the atmosphere; it was my first trip to Coney Island, and Nathan’s is the sort of restaurant you don’t see anything like in NYC. Up until about 10:30, not a whole hell of a lot happened, outside some people getting hot dogs and crews setting up.
The crowd gradually started to grow. There were press roaming the crowd for interviews – Katie got interviewed by ABC 7 (although it didn’t air, as she was largely in favor of Sonya). Judges started to roam. ESPN’s cameras got into position, including an obnoxious boom camera and the crazy undressed guy on a riser. Most amusingly, people from the inner section – I’m guessing either family/friends/IFOCE officials/ESPN staff – came by and handed out pre-made signs. Katie got one for the LeFevres, but she passed it along to someone nearby.
As we drew closer, the “entertainment” kicked up. There was a kid’s eating contest (one dog each). There were musical acts, all horrible, including Eric “Badlands” Booker rapping about his competitive eating. ESPN continued to prepare themselves for an obviously important telecast. And in what was the most surreal moment outside of the competition itself, we were treated to a booming sermon – something combining freedom and America with the taste of hot dogs. It was hard to not laugh as he ascended into the sky.
The arrival was typical of what you’d see in professional wrestling or boxing – theme music, long introductions, even some confetti. They all get along with each other well, so luckily we avoided a lot of taunting and the like. Oddly, Badlands Booker had on an iPod – I’m sure the world would love to know what one listens to while bingeing on hot dogs. Sonya got the next to last intro, and Kobayashi had a very lengthy intro – the crowd loves them both.
And then, we were off.
We had watched from home last year, and watching at home gives you a good view of the actual eating, but doesn’t often show you the entire length of the table – which our view this year provided us well. Watching the event, though, is just surreal. You have a crowd of people cheering on these people that are so intensely chowing down hot dog after hot dog – if you overdubbed it with some old music, and used appropriate camera angles, it would completely fit into a David Lynch film.
Sonya held up well for the first few minutes, but then Kobayashi broke into the lead – as expected – and the gap just gradually grew over the full 12 minutes.
And then, nearly as quickly as it started, the clock hit zero and it was all over. Kobayashi had finished 49 – a strong finish, but not as good as last year. Sonya, far back in second, had at least busted her American record from the year before. Joey Chestnut, a total newcomer, placed strong in third, shocking much of the rest of the field. Many of the extra hot dogs were distributed to the crowd – we enjoyed our free mini-lunch. Kobayashi’s name was quickly put up on the giant board, and post-game interviews were conducted. We joined the crowd of people shuffling away quickly.
Afterwards, we wandered around Coney Island, as none of us had ever actually been there before. Katie and I rode the Cyclone for a change of pace, and then we dropped back onto the Q for a very tired ride home.
It was a fun one time sort of thing – I’m still not really clear on the appeal of competitive eating, but I certainly enjoyed taking the pictures. I am certainly not enjoying this sunburn.