Kobayashi, Hunger Artist

“I was there as a spectator. But in the heat of it, I jumped on the stage, hoping they would let me eat.” –Takeru Kobayashi, prevented from competing in the July 4th Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest, after his release from jail.

It wasn’t fair. His fans had come from around the world, hoping to see him regain his crown against that Joey Chestnut guy, who stuffed 54 buns and dogs down his throat in the required ten minutes.  54.  A snack for Kobayashi, who would have pushed it to sixty easy. Chestnut was lucky, because on that day when they arrested Kobayashi, Kobayashi was hungry.

They took him away because he had refused to sign a contract with Major League Eating. Can you blame him?  There was no such thing as Major League Eating before Kobayashi put eating on the map. Why should he have to sign and limit himself to only Major League sanctioned events?  Kobayashi is the Sadahara Oh, the Hideki Matsui, the Ichiro of eating. Combined.  Would the Yankees have locked Babe Ruth out of Yankee Stadium on a technicality? Would Cleveland shut their doors on LeBron because he expressed his independence?

He was hungry. He was hoping they would let him eat. The crowd chanted his name. He wore a Free Kobi T-shirt.

He had given up his crown to Chestnut, but that’s why he returned. He was motivated. He came unprepared to compete, but the crowd stirred something deep in his soul. He jumped the gate because he knew, even without the mental preparation, that he could out eat the Chestnut.  The Chestnut was riding on fumes because Kobayashi wasn’t there. He could out slobber any of the other contestants, but Kobayashi was a different story. Kobayashi jumping the gate was Mariano Rivera crossing the outfield in the ninth. Chestnut wanted no part of Kobayashi.  Let the crowd chant, just keep Takeru off the stage. Arrest him. Throw him in jail. Feed him a sandwich and a glass of milk.  The Great Kobayashi, common criminal for wanting to eat some hot dogs.

Joey. Joey Joey Joey. Your reign is thin. Your days are numbered. You will have to meet him on his turf, because he’s not going to sign any contract that prohibits him from competing when and where he wants to compete. The Great Kobayashi will eat when he’s hungry. He’ll eat what he wants. Hot dogs. Hamburgers. Peanut Butter. Mayonnaise. Lobster tails. Watermelons. Onions. Catfish. Crawfish. Spam. Oysters.  Cow brains. Butter. Cabbage. Conch fritters. Corn on the cob. Cockroaches.  And what he eats will be more than what anyone else can eat because Kobayashi has the stomach of a champion and the throat of a porn queen.  There is Joey Chestnut…and there is Takeru Kobayashi. One, the great pretender. The other, the greatest of all time.

Takeru the Terminator. He’ll be back.

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