Ladies and gentleman, meet your hot dog eating champion! And it’s a familiar face.
Joey “Jaws” Chestnut ate 71 wieners to become the Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating champion for the 12th time on Thursday. Chestnut competed against 17 others in front of a crowd of many, and millions of TV viewers during the Fourth of July special.
He didn’t hit last year’s total of 74, but he sure tried. CNBC reported that he even said he could eat a “couple more,” after the contest was over.
“I knew it was going to be close. I was trying hard and I was overstuffing my mouth and it wasn’t going down,” he said. “I just needed to find a way to move a little bit faster. I think it’s getting harder the older I get.”
Chestnut has only lost once since 2007, reported CNBC, and that was to longtime competitor Takeru Kobayashi, who no longer participates in the event. ESPN just released a documentary tracking the rivalry. Chestnut called training for the competition “trial and error.”
Judge Jeff McNeil, an All-Star infielder for the Mets, said the competition was fun and he wanted to experience it, but he called it “gross,” reported the New York Post. McNeil’s job was flipping the number cards for every hot dog that Chestnut ate, and he was located in the “splash zone” for the 10-minute competition.
In the women’s category, Miki Sudo won, downing 31 dogs, which again, didn’t live up to her 2018 total of 37.
Chestnut and Sudo each took home $10,000.
The hot dog eating contest became an American tradition on the Fourth of July in 1972, but the original contest can be traced back as early as 1916.
Journalist Hampton Sides said that Americans like watching the contest because they have a passion for joining, and they hold on to rituals and traditions. Time compared America to other countries like Egypt, India, and China, reporting that America is a young country, turning only 243-years-old this year.
This could be a reason that Americans have an “exaggerated sense of loyalty” because of the lack of longtime traditions, Sides explained.
Author and journalist Jason Fagone, who spent a year with competitive eaters, said that the reasons Americans enjoy watching binge-eating contests are because of the many anxieties they have surrounding food. He said viewers watch because the competitors are “defying everything that we’re afraid of.”
He told Time that watching the contest was like watching a “car crash.”
“It’s just hard for any human to look away,” Fagone said.