How Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest Began


However, according to The New York Times, the event was conjured up by two press agents – Max Rosey and Mortimer Matz – hired by the hot dog company. The outlet says the fiction was further embellished by publicists George and Richard Shea. The press devoured the false narrative, which has since become part of the competitive dining canon.

In fact, the Shea brothers, who later founded Major League Eating, are credited with turning a local curiosity on the Coney Island boardwalk into an annual national obsession, according to The New York Times. When the cheeky couple took over promoting Nathan’s Famous in 1991, there were few ghosts and even fewer television cameras to document the competition. Now branded as a sport, the media reports as such, while the performance eaters train like athletes with programs that include water training and exercise to stay lean, as excess body fat can impede stomach expansion.

Nathan’s Famous has become so prominent that players can bet on the outcome via covers, and scientists have studied how many hot dogs one person can possibly eat in the competition’s 10-minute time frame, according to Sports Illustrated. Multiple Nathan’s Famous winner Joey Chestnut is quite the celebrity. Whether the company’s story is fact or fiction, Americans have an insatiable appetite for Nathan’s famous Fourth of July hot dog eating contest.


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