Joey Chestnut Nuggets, Food for Thought

As I was watching the world’s greatest eater chow down on 69 Nathan’s Hot Dogs Thursday morning, I started to wonder about Joey Chestnut’s standing in the world of sports. Where does the man known as “Jaws” rank compared to the other greatest athletes in their prospective sports? Is he just a 4th of July sensation?

Of course, some will argue he’s not an athlete at all. If you watched ESPN’s broadcast of Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, you would have seen just how clearly the Worldwide Leader in Sports disagrees with that sentiment. I even think back to last year’s contest when ESPN had a segment on the science of hot dog eating. As Mr. Chestnut himself once said,”…hot dog eating challenges both my body and my mind.”

Here’s a look at a few interesting tidbits I learned about Joey Christian “Jaws” Chestnut:

First, Joey trains by fasting and stretching his stomach with milk, water and protein supplements. I’m not at all sure how that works but here’s a look at how this contest might go if he didn’t courtesy of KPVI Sports Director Matt Gittins. As you can see, competitive eating is not for the faint of heart.

Second, I stumbled upon an Associated Press article following Chestnut’s seventh consecutive victory on Coney Island. Take a guess at what the take-home prize is for winning the contest besides that “bejeweled” mustard-yellow belt we always see him toting around. “Jaws” will collect a modest $10,000 for his record-setting effort of 69 hot dogs eaten. I know very little about the sport but, given the TV coverage lended to the event, I would guess that Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest is the Super Bowl of competitive eating. So how could he make a living if the max payout is $10,000? Yes, Chestnut owns several other records at eating competitions across the world, but, at that rate, he’d have to win dozens of these every year to compare with the low-end earnings in other sports. So, I decided to look up Joey’s earnings and found this gem. Who would have guessed that Joey Chestnut makes more money than the great Walter Ray Williams, Jr. (Men’s Bowling)? Of course, he makes quite a bit less than the best raquetballer in the world. Chestnut also appears to have a day job as a construction engineer.

Third, Joey Chestnut’s rise to the top came with some bumps. His female counterpart in the contest Thursday scarfed down just 36 3/4 hot dogs. It’s hard to imagine that the “Black Widow,” as Sonya Thomas is known, was forced to compete with the men in Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest just four years ago. But she held her own in those times including back in 2005 when she finished second behind Takeru Kobayashi but ahead of Joey “Jaws” Chestnut.

Fourth, did you know there was a franchise called Major League Eating? The mission of MLE is to maintain a safe environment for all events, while also seeking to create a dynamic and enjoyable fan experience. Not sure if eating competitions will ever top the NFL in terms of tickets sold but it’s interesting that they’re trying to create a “fan experience” anyway. Certainly the fans suffered when a contract dispute between MLE and Tikeru Kobayashi kept the Japanese eater out of the 2010 Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. Interestingly enough, Kobayashi attended the event but was hauled away in handcuffs after he ran onto the stage following the competition. Maybe the fans did get what they paid for even if it didn’t come during the eating competition but after.

Fifth, I heard one of the commentators compare Chestnut to a baseball player who can hit the ball to all fields simply because he can eat an array of foods. In fact, he holds the record for eating the most pork ribs, steak, asparagus (glad they mixed in some veggies), chicken wings, Krystal Burgers, Matzoh Balls and gyros in competition. Is there a Hall of Fame for competitive eating? Because this guy definitely belongs in it right next to Guy Fieri.

About the author

Matt Hugie

A graduate of Weber State University, my day job is journalism as the Assistant News Director for KPVI-TV based in Pocatello, Idaho. My passion is sports particularly the University of Utah. I’ve been going to games as long as I can remember and it’s the best way I know how to honor a loving father who took me to games when I was a young buck but passed on to the other side far too soon. Now I take my smokin’ hot wife at least until she gets too pregnant with our first to attend.