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Fourth of July: A Champion, A Man in Exile, 131 Hot Dogs, 20 Miles Apart

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At the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, held every Fourth of July in Coney Island, Joey Chestnut continued his streak of impressive victories by inhaling 62 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes. The victory marked his fifth-straight Yellow Mustard Belt.

While that might have been the story of the day when it comes to gastro-athletes yesterday — or for that matter, Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas taking home the inaugural pink Pepto Bismol belt by eating 40 hot dogs at the debut women’s table — it was difficult to not glance across the harbor to a Manhattan rooftop and fixate upon former champion Takeru Kobayashi staging his own competition in exile.

“The Tsunami” was once a beloved fixture on the Nathan’s July 4th stage, but Kobayashi and Major League Eating have been embroiled in a bizarre spat that saw the six-time Nathan’s champ arrested at the 2010 event and not allowed to participate in this year’s event.

So, rather than attempt a WWE-style interference play like last year, Kobayashi took to the rooftop of 230 FIFTH in Manhattan, where he set a world record by eating 69 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes.

The tally bested the previous record of 68 hot dogs and buns set by Chestnut in 2009 and was seven more than Chestnut’s winning 2011 number.

“The champion of the world is crowned in Coney Island. Always has been, always will be,” said Major League Eating President George Shea, reports AOL. “[Kobayashi] put a tin crown on his head and called himself king.”

Oh, SNAP! You’ve got to love the wink-wink theatrics of Major League Eating that’s cribbed from the Vince McMahon/WWE playbook.

“I am so happy I got this chance,” Kobayshi told a packed house at the rooftop garden bar at 230 Fifth, slamming both fists on the table triumphantly, and thanking club owner Steven Greenberg for making the event happen.

“I watched the Coney Island event last year, and immediately after the police incident I contacted Koby’s attorney,” Greenberg said. “We thought the public deserved to see him compete.”

Kobayashi told AOL Weird News that Major League Eating representatives contacted him before the event, but they refused to drop their demand that he sign a restrictive contract for the right to compete at Coney Island.

“I want to remain free to compete in the events that I want to compete in,” Kobayashi said. “Today was a great success.”

As for what’s next, Chestnut told ESPN, “I’ve never done oysters or hard-boiled eggs. I remember as a kid watching that movie – Cool Hand Luke — with my grandfather. You remember that famous scene? That’s what I want to try.”

Given that the closest competitors to Chestnut at this year’s event were Patrick “Deep Dish” Bertoletti, who finished by eating 53 hot dogs, and Tim “Eater X” Janus, who finished with 45, it would seem that a heavyweight showdown of sorts between Kobayashi and Chestnut should be percolating.

Imagine the storyline that Major League Eating could manipulate to generate incredible ratings for a televised ESPN event. It would be like that time when Michael Johnson and Donovan Bailey had that 150 meter showdown after the ’96 Olympics. Only with hot dogs. Hopefully this time around, one of the competitors doesn’t pull up with the gastro-athlete equivalent of a pulled quad. That might have the potential to kick off a very unpleasant chain-puking epidemic.

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