“They throw up, you know.” Those are pretty much the first words that greet you when you’re a judge at the Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest. The privilege came with a black-and-white striped jersey and a baseball cap, which, it turns out, you need. “We’re in the spray zone,” I was warned by another judge, as we took our place in a pit below the competitors.
We were told to count hotdogs by quarter sections, look for illegal liquids that aided swallowing, and flyaway buns. “It won’t be easy. There’s going to be stuff coming out their noses,” I was told.
In 90-degree heat, I watched Dancing Hotdogs, listened to a kid DJ named ADHD and waited for a Miley Cyrus clone to sing the Star Spangled Banner, signaling the start.
The contestant I was seated in front of, and charged to judge, Kris Adams, wore a grey t-shirt and a blank stare. His technique was to halve the dogs and dunk them in water, which wasn’t too speedy. He downed 11 ½ hotdogs in ten minutes versus the winner, Joey Chestnut’s, 54. We heard later that the former champ, Takeru “Tsunami” Kobayashi, tried to storm the stage and was arrested (he’s since been released). but we judges were too busy keeping an eye on our contestants to notice. At the end, Adams almost blew in my direction — but my fellow judge warned me, and I ducked.