A landmark for hot dog lovers is now the site of revisionist history.
Organizers of the Nathan’s hot dog eating contest in Coney Island have erased international legend Takeru Kobayashi — the six-time world champion — from the arena’s “Wall of Fame,” a stunning push from grace for the man who once had the world on a sausage-string.
After all, Kobayashi’s the Abe Lincoln of eaters, and the wall is the sport’s Mt. Rushmore.
George Shea, the executive director of Major League Eating, the governing body of all duodenum-defying sports, disagreed.
“This is not Mt. Rushmore,” he said. “This is not a museum. This is not a Hall of Fame.”
The action, while stunning from a historical perspective was expected after the Japanese jawbreaker’s refusal to sign a contract with the league last year, saying he wanted to be free to compete in non-league events. The decision was costly — resulting in his expulsion from the annual Coney Island contest. His humiliation was believed to be complete when he was arrested after he bun-rushed the stage just at the end of the 2010 contest.
But further humiliation was forthcoming. His place on the wall is now occupied by Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas, who has never won the contest. Shea again blamed Kobayashi for his Greek tragedy of a fall from grace.
“Kobayashi actively removed himself from the world of professional eating and as a result, we must make room for those who will continue to engage in professional eating,” Shea said. “We did not drive him away. He changed what he wanted.”
But the gustatory Godzilla fired back, saying his legacy will live on.
“Images can be taken off the wall, but I hope the history stays with the memories the people have,” Kobayashi said through spokeswoman Maggie James. “I respect the many players who left the contest before me and continue to do so, for freedom — and in search of new beginnings in competitive eating.”
But the league is still leaving room for Kobayashi’s return.
“This is not to say that he won’t be up there again,” said Shea, who has made overtures to Kobayashi, but the eater has shunned all overtures to return to the table (negotiating or otherwise).
This is not the first time the wall has defied its own glorious history. Last year, league officials removed dog deities Ed “The Maspeth Monster” Krachie, Mike “The Scholar” Devito, “Hungry” Charles Hardy, Eric “Badlands” Booker and Amos Wengler, the “Bard” of Coney Island, claiming that none of men had fame anymore.
The Kobayashi incident isn’t the only change in store for the historic contest. The league announced this week that the contest would feature a separate women’s competition.
“The accomplishments of women have not been fully recognized because of the accomplishments of the men,” said Shea.
Last year, winner Joey Chestnut gobbled 54 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes. The top female challenger Thomas ate 36 in the same time, enough for fourth place.
“I’m not saying they can’t compete,” Shea said. “This about getting more recognition for them.”