Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Putting Kobayashi vs. Chestnut In Perspective

Joey Chestnut was able to take out Takeru Kobayashi earlier today at the Nathan’s annual hot dog eating contest at Coney Island. Below are some excerpts from

Chestnut smashes world record, beats Kobayashi for title

Chestnut, the great red, white and blue hope in the annual Fourth of July competition, broke his own world record by inhaling 66 hot dogs in 12 minutes -- a staggering one every 10.9 seconds before a screaming crowd in Coney Island. Kobayashi finished with 63 HDBs -- hot dogs and buns eaten -- in his best performance ever. His previous high in the annual competition was 53½. The all-time record before Wednesday's remarkable contest was Chestnut's 59½, set just last month.

The two had each downed 60 hot dogs with 60 seconds to go when Chestnut, the veins on his forehead extended, put away the final franks to end Kobayashi's reign.

Just insane. Is there a sports equivalent to Chestnut putting down 66 dogs when the previous record was 59.5? It’s worth noting, as well, that 59.5 had easily bested the previous contest best of 53.5. Also, how about Kobayashi almost rising to this new challenger and putting down 10 more than his previous high? If this account is correct, Chestnut put down about 5 ½ per minute for 11 minutes, and then pounded 6 in the last minute. Kobayashi had the same pace as Chestnut but only could eat 3 in the final minute. I think it’s safe to say that Chestnut is Eckstein level clutch, and Kobayashi is an A-Rod level choker (kidding, really… no e-mails please).

I can’t think of many events in sports that could parallel this dynamic. Two men battling for the title. Both breaking the record with a minute to spare. The defending champ fighting off mouth-related injuries, and the lesser known rival beating him by such a margin that the injuries become irrelevant. These were some of the analogies that came to mind first:

McGwire & Sosa 1998 Home Run Chase

The summer of ’98 is remembered as the summer of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa making home run history. For the numbers based perspective, this is the most obvious reference.

Similarities: Roger Maris’ single-season home run record, set in 1961, had stood at 61 home runs for 37 years. These two clean living guys ate their Wheaties and spinach and said their prayers all the way to 70 and 66 dingers, shattering the previous record. McGwire’s 70 HRs were 15% ahead of the record. Chestnut’s numbers were 11% ahead of the record. Sosa bested the previous record by 8%, Kobayashi by 6%. Sosa and Kobyashi were both born outside of the US, McGwire and Chestnut were born in the US of A. It’s pretty much the same damn thing except for one is a totally unnecessary game played by millionaires and the other is needed for survival but has been taken to ridiculous lengths.

Differences: The guys playing baseball were taking illegal substances to help improve their strength. Yes, yes fucking way. Also, the season long HR record is a marathon, and eating hot dogs for 12 minutes is not.

Jordan vs. Wilkins: 1988 Dunk Contest

The 1988 Dunk Contest final with Michael Jordan vs. Dominique Wilkins is often seen as the ultimate dunking duel between the best dunkers ever. This is not entirely true, but that’s what TNT wants us to think every year when they reminisce about it. The two paired off in the finals in Chicago.

Similarities: Well right off the bat, Dominique Wilkins is as Japanese as they come. The duel was well hyped but actually delivered some good dunks and great drama, along with a controversy as to whether Jordan got some home-town scoring after Nique got a 45 on a sick two-handed windmill, or as the literal translation from it's Japanese name would read, the "Can You See I Am Serious?" dunk. The finals came down to the final jam, and Jordan needed a 48 to tie Dominique-san. He got a 50 to win at the end with his foot on the foul line dunk with a dramatic pump and leg kick, a similar furious finish as Chestnut's, who (like all of the eaters) was bouncing like a hyperglycemic eating a snickers bar. Also, all four of these dudes has a great nickname: "Air", "The Human Highlight Film", "Tsunami", and "Jaws".

Differences: The dunk contest was at the mercy of the judges, and the judges had no impact on the events of the day at Nathan’s. Chestnut pounded the most ‘dogs, no one can dispute that.

1989 NBA Finals

The Lakers were the champs, and the Pistons were the upstarts that had made noise in the playoffs in 1987 and had broken through to the finals in 1988, only to lose to the Lakers.

Similarities: The Lakers were the two-time defending champions and had won 5 of the last 9 rings; Kobayashi had won the last 6 Nathans’ contests. The Pistons were clearly the better team during the regular season, with 63 wins to the Lakers 57, just as Chestnut’s recent record setting day should have made him the favorite. But the Lakers were the Lakers, and had the national name recognition and had come through in the past, like Kobayashi. The Lakers lost Magic for two games and Byron Scott for two games due to injuries. Kobayashi almost couldn't compete due to a jaw injury. But neither the Lakers or Kobayashi were good enough to beat their opponent at that time, despite their injuries.

Differences: The Lakers were swept in the finals (after sweeping the first three series), however Kobayashi was able to keep it even until that final minute and he still put forth an effort good enough to have won in prior years. The NBA finals, by contrast, was a disappointment.

Ben Johnson vs. Carl Lewis – 1988 Olympics

Ben Johnson set a world record in the 100 meter sprint in Rome with a time of 9.83 in 1987. The 100M at the 1988 Olympics pitted Carl Lewis as the defending Olympic Champ in the 100 and widely renowned as the best track athlete in the world versus the recent record setter Johnson.

Similarities: Like Chestnut, Johnson had crushed the previous record, which stood at 9.9, and brought it to an unthinkable mark at the time. Before Johnson, the record had historically moved in small increments. The result of the race in Seoul mirrored the hot dog contest as Johnson beat Lewis, the defending champ, and set a new world record (9.79) by even besting his own relatively recently set record (another similarity). Carl Lewis ran the third fastest 100 meters in history (w/ electronic timing) of 9.92, behind only Ben Johnson’s runs in Rome and in that Olympic race in Seoul. It would be three years before Carl Lewis ran a faster 100 than he did that day.

Differences: Well Johnson had more steroids in him than a WWE battle royal. His Rome run and his Olympic run were thrown out, and Lewis was given the gold medal to repeat. If Joey Chestnut tests positive for some eating enhancement drug, then this is just eerily similar. Amazingly, if Ben Johnson's 100 had been clean, the record would have stood until 2005.

I could have also analogized Kobayashi/Chestnut to the long-jump duels held by Carl Lewis and Mike Powell, including Powell's amazing jump in Tokyo in 1991 of (I think) 29' 4 1/2" inches to beat a 23 year old record set by Bob Beamon at the '68 Olympics. Beamon's record had bested the previous mark by about 2 feet. Anyway, Powell and Lewis squared off in the '92 Olympics and Lewis barely edged the record holder to take gold. I think that analogy works if Powell beats Lewis in the '92 games. I also might be crazy to be putting serious thought into this.

Ali vs. Frasier 1, 1971

Undefeated Muhammed Ali stepped into the ring against undefeated Joe Frazier in Madison Square Garden in 1971.

Similarities: Ali was the name, the vocal guy who got all the national attention for his charisma and his politics. Well, Kobayashi is the name in hot dog eating, and check out these quotes from after last year’s contest:

Interviewer: “Kobayashi you’re quite truculent”
Kobayashi: “Whatever truculent means, if that’s good, then I’m that. “I’m pretty, I’m pretty, I’m a baaad man! I shook up the world!”

Sound familiar?

Frazier was just the quiet guy kicking asses and winning belts. Though he had the belts because Ali was forced to give up the championship after he refused to enter the armed forces for religious reasons. Because he had recently set the record, Chestnut was the man to beat, just like Frazier, but no one would care unless he took out Kobayashi, his Ali. Frazier took down “The Greatest” in a 15 round unanimous decision.

Differences: Kobayashi was FOR the Vietnam war.

Lex Luger Body Slamming Yokozuna

On the fourth of July in 1993, The WWE's Yokozuna challenged all Americans to body slam him on the deck of the USS Intrepid. Many tried, many failed.....until.....

Similarities: Yokozuna, the smug Japanese man looking down his nose at us ugly, out of shape Americans who weren't in good enough shape to pick up and body slam like 600 pounds of fat is no different than Kobayashi constantly talking about how us out-of-shape Americans can't regularly pound 6,000 calories a day and still be ripped. He needed to be put in his place, and Lex Luger / Joey Chestnut emerged as the real American hero of the day, and came out of the crowd of us mortals to put the proud man from Japan in his place.

Differences: None. Well, except Joey Chestnut wasn't parading around as some dude called the Narcissist and being a total ass to everyone until one day he decided to be a good, all American guy. So there's that. Also, Kobayashi didn't let Chestnut win.

Updates: Awfulannouncing has linked the video. And here is Deadspin's first hand view of the events, with great pics.

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