Temporomandibular joint disorder

It’s been all the rage in New York over the last few days. What it is? Some version of a stuck jaw (apparently following wisdom tooth extraction), and its victim none other than the six-time world champion of competitive hot-dog eating, Takeru Kobayashi. He started by posting some complaints on his blog (!), and the media savvy – including The New York Times – soon picked up on it and turned it into something very short of a national … well, “concern” would be the wrong word… celebration?

The issue was that the 4th of July was coming up, and a sore jaw would potentially interfere with the champ defending his title, as he has done on that day for the past six years at The Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island. To thicken the intrigue, Kobayashi’s record of 53.75 (?) had been beaten just a few days earlier by the homegrown wonderkid Joey Chestnut, who ate 59 and a half hotdogs in 12 minutes.

Little Joey’s feat was no little thing. Witness the wonders of journalism (this one from The Mercury News):

‘Some are calling Chestnut’s 59-1/2 HDB performance the greatest achievement in the history of human competition.

“It’s the greatest achievement in the history of human competition,” said George Shea, chairman of the International Federation of Competitive Eating, the governing body of all stomach-centered sports.

“I saw the 1969 Super Bowl. I saw Michael Jordan’s three-peat (although, admittedly, I was getting a sandwich during one of the peats). I saw Secretariat win the Belmont by 31 lengths. What Chestnut has done makes all those sporting achievements look like a one-run win in a pickup softball game.”’

So, competitive eaters are the new Michael Jordans. Forget Nike. Just watch, some day soon, some poor sucker is going to get their jaw replaced to mimic one of the greats. And they’ll probably do it on national television.

Speaking of which, National Geographic will soon be screening a brand new documentary on the “science of speed-eating“, where you can watch what happens when people eat too much, too fast and go into convulsions. Charming.

Hopefully there will be no ruptured guts or deaths, like the woman who died from water intoxication in January after competing in a ‘radio station’s contest to see how much water she could drink without going to the bathroom‘. The competition was called “Hold Your Wee for a Wii”: the prize was a Nintendo Wii video game. The report didn’t say whether she won.

But July 4 has now come and gone, and there is a new world-champion hotdog eater. Joey Chestnut brought the title home with a spectacular 66 hotdogs in 12 minutes. Kobayashi’s jaw was better, but only good enough to manage 63, ‘though there was some debate at the end whether the frankfurters that were partly in and partly out of his mouth would count or not’.

I can’t seem to find out what they’re actually competing for, but the fact that Chestnut has already won over $100,000 for eating things like waffles and chicken wings bodes pretty well for his wallet. Maybe it’s just for the pleasure of the game. As the new champ said in an interview before the big day: “If I go out there an break my own world record, no matter how many Kobayashi eats, it’s only fair to say that I would have beaten him even if he was 100 percent healthy”. That’s sportsmanship.

On a final note, if this kind of thing really gets you going, check out Crazy Leg Conti’s Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating, touted by The New York Times as something “alongside Supersize Me and Inside Deep Throat”. Food porn. Yawn.