Coney Island’s hotdog eating contest is going from high noon to high tea.
The Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Championship will take place at 3 pm instead of its traditional noon start time to accommodate an historic Wimbledon quarterfinals that coincides with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee — forcing the world’s top stomachs to play second fiddle to the world’s top tennis players and compete in fiercer mid-afternoon heat that could alter the outcome of the legendary July 4 man-versus-dog competition.
Major League Eating president George Shea was fuming that his contest was placed on the back burner by ESPN, which will air the event live at the later hour rather than compete with the tennis match and Queen Elizabeth II’s 60th year on the throne.
“Tennis is not as respected and elegant a sport as competitive eating,” said Shea. “The only sport more fundamental than competitive eating is competitive breathing, and that’s dangerous because it can cause hyperventilation.”
The later start could mean that gustatory giant Joey “Jaws” Chestnut’s 2009 world record of 68 hot dogs and buns (HDBs) in 10 minutes will be tough to beat if the San Jose star and his 19 opponents are forced to drink more liquid than usual to stay hydrated during the hottest part of the day — potentially resulting in less stomach room for frankfurters, according to Shea.
“The heat is really what they have to worry about,” he said. “It could depress the numbers.”
Competitors fear the hot dogs and buns won’t have the same flavor and feel if they’re re-cooked by the scorching afternoon sun.
“The temperature might change the texture of the hot dogs and prematurely toast the buns, making them harder to go down,” said Patrick “Deep Dish” Bertoletti, who came in second to Chestnut last year by downing 53 HDBs.
Still, Bertoletti vowed to beat Chestnut, who wolfed down 62 HDBs in 2011 to claim his fifth straight championship.
“I’m going to challenge Joey this year,” Bertoletti said. “I’m sick of seeing him win.”
Another victory would give Chestnut six Mustard Belts, tying a previous record set by Takeru Kobayashi.
Kobayashi, of course, has been consumer non grata at the contest since he refused to sign a contract with the competitive eating federation in 2010 — then showed up at that year’s contest anyway, rushed the stage and was arrested.
The Japanese competitive eating legend was unceremoniously removed from the Nathan’s Wall of Fame before grabbing headlines again last year when he set a disputed world record of 69 HDBs in 10 minutes at an air-conditioned bar in Manhattan Flatiron District while his former competitive eating peers did battle in Coney Island.
ESPN — which has aired the decades-old contest at the original Nathan’s on Surf Avenue at Stillwell Avenue since 2003 — reached an agreement last month with Major League Eating to broadcast the event through 2017.