Takeru Kobayashi's reign as the world's most celebrated eater of hot dogs has ended. "The Tsunami" lost his world record three years ago, and now he has purposefully undermined his competitive eating contract negotiations. An excuse to eat no more?
With Kobayashi's contract negotiations collapsed and abandoned, International Federation of Competitive Eating (IFOCE) director George Shea says the great inhaler of tube steaks is like a samurai who, when he begins to lose battles, must end his warmongering forever: "It's sad, but perhaps Koby is protecting his legacy," Shea told the New York Post. "He can't go out on top, but he doesn't want to go out a loser." There are two ways to commit harakiri in the sport of competitive eating: One, be a bitch about your contract. Two, eat so much you explode, like the mythic church pigeon eating dry rice at a wedding. Kobayashi chose the former.
Kobayashi revolutionized competitive hot dog eating with his method of wetting the buns and skipping the chewing phase entirely. (He breaks them with his hands, then swallows.) In 2001, Koby downed a mindblowing 50 hot dogs in 12 minutes, beating the previous record by 25 dogs. The wiry Kobayashi went on to win every eating prize imaginable. Hot dogs, hamburgers, lobster rolls, Pizza Hut p'zones—he ate them all.
But as the years passed, Kobayashi's followers began to beat him. American Joey "Jaws" Chestnut is the reigning Nathan's Hot Dog Eating champ, and even he faces a significant threat from "Humble" Bob Shoudt, a vegetarian who breaks his personal meat embargo only to compete.
Asked how the IFOCE would remember Kobayashi, Shea reminisced on the man who "reset the bar on competitive eating forever": "He changed the sport and he will go down in people's minds as one of the world's greatest athletes. Kobayashi ushered in the modern era, like a Tiger Woods, if you will."
Goodbye, Kobayashi, and congratulations: Now you can eat like a normal person, chewing and using your taste buds, again. But once you've conquered the 50-dog mountain, can you ever really "eat" again? [NYPost, images via Getty]