Nothing is more American than what takes place every July 4 in Coney Island, New York.
The Everyday Man standing in front of a table of hot dogs like King Joffrey asking for the head of Eddard Stark. The gobbling down of as many wieners as physically possible. The horde of spectators cheering on the gluttony like they were Crunchem Hall Elementary School students urging Bruce to scarf down chocolate cake.
What made it more American this year? It certainly wasn’t Joey “Jaws” Chestnut winning his 11th mustard-yellow belt in 12 years. If anything, that might have hurt the sport. Like tuning in for the NCAA women’s basketball tournament for some reason when you know full well UConn is going to walk away with the title. (You know, except for these past two years.)
No. What made the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest red-white-and-bluer? DraftKings reportedly getting in on the action by offering bets on the outcome in the near future. No details have emerged from the daily fantasy sports giant’s involvement, but it caught our attention. Betting on the brats? It’s can’t-miss.
And did Jaws and the Judges (great hair band name alert) make it oh so interesting this week.
There was no question Chestnut was the favorite heading into the competition that has been a Coney Island tradition since 1972. He was Goliath. David, meanwhile, stays home each year to catch up on sleep so as to not fall asleep at the setting-off-fireworks wheel and end up like Jason Pierre-Paul.
So it should come as no surprise that Chestnut, the record-breaker of pig intestine ingestion in 2016 and 2017, was listed as high as -700 to win by offshore sportsbooks. Meaning throw down $700 to win $100. Zoinks. Still, according to ESPN, those books took in upward of $1 million on bets for the contest.
One of the reasons for the sizable handle was certainly the over/under on hot dogs eaten by the winner, which, depending on the book, varied between 70.5 and 72.5 frankfurters.
Jaws and the Judges: Greatest Hits
From the get-go, Chestnut baffled the contest’s judges. Jaws kept eyes on the counter, and one minute in, he told The New York Post afterward, the judges pegged Chestnut with 10 ingested intestines. “I knew it was 20,” Chestnut told The Post. “They fell behind really quick.”
When the 10 minutes of the second-greatest first-world game concluded (it’s second to Survivor; “Oh, you’re barely alive and starving on this island? This is a GAME for us”), counters had Chestnut at 64 hot dogs and buns (HDB). His runner-up, Carmen Cincotti, was at 45. The under had been realized. Until it wasn’t.
A recount was performed. Turns out, judges were unaware Jaws was scooping HDB off two plates. A Brooklyn DA, Eric Gonzalez, had to certify the final tally: Cincotti with 64, Chestnut with a record 74. So, in fact, it was the over that won.
Here’s the best part of it all: ESPN2 carried the telecast but cut away from Coney Island before the recount was completed. So for the hardcore bettors waiting, they had to watch cornhole and await an announcement from Major League Eating via Twitter.
Talk about a bad beat. Turns out what happened may “be the impetus to bring competitive eating into the digital age,” MLE president Rich Shea told ESPN. He noted that there could be “some sort of monitoring associated with the plate weight” to determine gobbled wieners.
Cincotti, you can imagine, was, um, let’s say displeased. “Clusterf**k” is how he described the contest.
Maybe so, but man, what a show. What a way to get betting on the brats as American a tradition as blowing shit up in your driveway.
Meanwhile, Joey “Jaws” Chestnut joined Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum as Independence Day legends.