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Get ready for an early lunch: the Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest will start at noon, not 3 pm, as planners had previously announced.
The world’s foremost display of professional gluttony will begin at its traditional 12 pm start time rather than the later time-slot intended to keep the July 4 competition from bumping up against ESPN’s special coverage of Wimbledon during Queen Elizabeth II’s 60th year on the throne.
That 3 pm start time may have been perfect for TV, but it would have coincided with a Brooklyn Cyclones home game — potentially drawing a crowd too large for police in Coney Island to safely control, contest promoters said.
Ever the optimist, Major League Eating president George Shea sees the scheduling switcheroo as proof of the People’s Playground’s growing popularity.
“What this shows is the remarkable success of Coney Island,” said Shea.
It remains unclear how and when the contest will be aired on television and a spokesperson for the NYPD did not immediately respond to inquiries about crowds influencing the start time.
No matter when the feeding frenzy begins, this year’s hot dog eating contest will be one for the ages.
A victory would give reigning chomp-ion Joey “Jaws” Chestnut his sixth-straight Mustard Belt — tieing the record set by his arch-nemesis, the legendary eater Takeru Kobayashi.
After first defeating a seemingly unbeatable Kobayashi in 2007 when the Japanese eater was suffering from jawthritis, the mouth from San Jose has become the dominant force in competitive eating by shattering existing records with 68 HDBs (hot dogs and buns) in 2009 and 66 in 2007.
Following three straight defeats in Coney Island, Kobayashi stopped competing at Nathan’s citing a contract dispute and was arrested when he rushed the stage in 2010 — but last year he set a contested world record with 69 HDBs in a solo demonstration at a Manhattan rooftop. This year, Kobayashi will compete in an independent July 4 contest at the Bushwick pizzeria Roberta’s that’s sponsored by the hip hot dog shop Crif Dogs.
Chestnut is already considered among history’s greatest competitive eaters — and a sixth-straight victory would leave him in position to surpass Kobayashi as the winningest mandible ever to bite into a Nathan’s hot dog.
Insiders say his odds look good.
Bookies from Las Vegas’s www.sportsbook.ag give Chestnut a 90 percent chance of victory — his highest odds in the last five years.
But this year won’t be a picnic for Chestnut, especially with Patrick “Deep Dish” Bertoletti chomping at the bits.
The eater from Chicago — who finished second last year with 53 HDBs — has bested Chestnut in cheesesteak, chicken wing, and rib contests, and he’s looking to add hot dogs to that list this year.
“I just need to push myself a little more,” Bertoletti said. “I have equal stomach capacity with Chestnut, and if I show up and it’s my day, I can beat him.”
Even with the odds stacked against him, Bertoletti is happy to be the biggest obstacle between Chestnut and hot dog history.
“I’m as confident as I’ve ever been,” Bertoletti said. “If Chestnut’s going to lose, this is gonna be the year.”
But Chestnut doesn’t sound scared — the typically reticent eater has even taken to Twitter to taunt his closest rival.
“We should do a banishment contest, loser never competes again,” he said, before making a remark about Bertoletti’s private parts that cannot be published in a family newspaper.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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