The Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest may not be America’s proudest tradition, but perhaps it’s the most American one. It’s held annually on July 4 at Coney Island and has existed in some form or another for more than 100 years. Even those who’d prefer to avoid knowing much about this competition have probably heard the name Joey Chestnut tossed around—he’s a competitive eater who has smashed his own hot-dog-eating world record again and again over the years, peaking at 74 hot dogs in 10 minutes in 2018. Chestnut won his twelfth Nathan’s title with 71 hot dogs.
Love it or hate it, competitive eating is a fascinating study in mental discipline and the resilience of the human body, just like any sport you might hold in a bit higher esteem. And like more traditional sporting events, the Nathan’s contest is undergoing significant changes this year due to COVID-19 restrictions: It will be held indoors with no audience of screaming fans.
Though the restrictions might sound like a bummer, Chestnut spoke to TMZ Sports and confirmed that these might be favorable changes as he attempts to break his own world record once more in 2020.
“There’s a little bit of a bonus ’cause we’re gonna be eating in air conditioning and they’re less eaters, so they’re making less hot dogs so they might taste better,” Chestnut told TMZ. “There’s a good chance that we might have better conditions for a world record and I’ma be pushing for it.”
It’s hard to argue with that logic. If given the option, would anyone actually prefer to have sweat stinging their eyes as they down hot dog after Crystal Light–soaked hot dog? This way there will be no squinting in the sun, and virtually zero flies buzzing around the contestants’ meal. When finished, they’ll have no sunburn, just the possible burning sensation throughout their digestive systems. Maybe Chestnut really will break his record this year—as long as he can stay motivated without the roar of a crowd.