Serious Eats

Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest Shortened to Ten Minutes

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The famous July Fourth hot dog eating contest at Nathan's in Coney Island will be shortened this year from 12 minutes to 10. Major League Eating, the organization that runs the event, says it discovered random notes and scribblings in a "trove of numerous old items and ephemera" at the original Nathan's stand in Coney Island that implied that the contest's traditional length was actually 10 minutes.

"The issue is history, and the preponderance of the event suggests that the contest was always 10 minutes," said George Shea, chairman of the MLE, in the Brooklyn Paper. All qualifying rounds of the 2008 circuit tour will follow suit and become 10-minute competitions, and the change will most likely be permanent.

Given that current world champion Joey Chestnut beat out six-time champ Takeru "The Tsunami" Kobayashi last year only in the last few minutes of the contest, does shaving off those last two minutes dramatically change the playing field? We talked to Major League Eating media manager Ryan Nerz about to find out.

"Kobayashi was neck and neck with Joey Chestnut throughout the contest [last year]," Nerz said. "If you asked the top four eaters, they'd tell you that the last two minutes are often the least productive. They're usually just worried about whether they're going to finish."

Would anyone stand to benefit from the change? "Pat Bertoletti might be salivating a bit because he's fast out of the gate," Nerz said.

The bigger question: How do you account for the older 12-minute records in the new 10-minute-contest world? Nerz said that, assuming the 10-minute duration is adopted permanently, he didn't see any way to square the two. So Joey Chestnut will always hold the 12-minute record of 66 hot dogs and new records would be set in 10-minute standard bouts.

Guess those eaters will have to scarf down those hot dogs a little faster this year if they want to trump Chestnut's 66 dogs and buns.

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