A tale of Hot Dogs and SCALE
Yesterday was Independence Day, and whilst reminding myself about the historical details, I came across the fascinating Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest that has been held every year since 1972 in conjunction with Independence Day.
According to legend, on July 4, 1916, four immigrants held a hot dog eating contest at Nathan’s Famous stand on Coney Island to settle an argument about who was the most patriotic.
Today, the competition draws over 50,000 spectators and world-wide press coverage. But how has it scaled this successfully?
- The “according to legend” status story of how it originated, why it exists, is captivating; settling an argument with a food-eating competition.
- It has a set of rules, regulations, and processes to follow. The International Federation of Competitive Eating has sanctioned the event since 1997, and only entrants currently under contract by the IFOCE can compete. There’s rules around condiments, drinks and temperature of the hot dog.
- There’s an end goal: winners get possession of the coveted international “bejeweled” belt. There’s cash prizes, travel packages and winners are listed on a three-story-high “Hot Dog Wall of Fame” (which has a digital clock counting down the minutes until the next contest!).
- There’s tactics and training to improve performance. Contestants train and prepare for the event in different ways; some fast, others prefer liquid-only diets before the event, some meditate. Each contestant has their own eating methods: the “Solomon Method” consists of breaking each hot dog in half, eating the two halves at once, and then eating the bun. “Dunking” buns in water and squeezing them to make them easier to swallow and slide down the throat more efficiently. There’s the “Carlene Pop,” where the competitor jumps up and down while eating, to force the food down to the stomach. (And “Juliet-ing” is a cheating method in which players simply throw the Hot Dog Buns over their shoulders).
- There’s measures in place: a designated scorekeeper is paired with each contestant, flipping a number board counting each hot dog consumed. Partially eaten hot dogs count and the granularity of measurement is eighths of a length. Hot dogs still in the mouth at the end of regulation count if they are subsequently swallowed. Yellow penalty cards can be issued for “messy eating,” and red penalty cards can be issued for “reversal of fortune” (I don’t need to spell out what this means!), which results in disqualification.
So, you’re probably thinking how many hot dogs can you eat in 10 minutes? Well, the winner last year, Matt “Megatoad” Stonie, downed 62! That’s a total of 17,360 calories (not even including the buns). And you can watch it here (I advise not before lunch).