Only in America can hot-dog eating become world famous

Anytime you see something proclaimed as world famous, you have to sit up and take notice, right?

The self-proclaimed World-Famous Nathan?s International Hot Dog Eating Contest will be held on Independence Day. If you go to the website, you see the following unabashedly bold claim:

?What started as a contest between friends to prove each other?s patriotism has become a nationally televised sensation. Every 4th of July, thousands of people descend upon Coney Island to witness the most unique sporting event in the world.?

That claim in itself raises numerous questions. What makes it world famous? How does stuffing hot dogs into your mouth as fast as humanly possible equate to patriotism? Why is this event televised nationally? What exactly makes it a sporting event?

Who doesn?t love a good hot dog, especially at a cookout or baseball game? If you don?t know how the classic American hot dog is made, it?s probably best to skip the following paragraphs or have some Alka Seltzer handy.

If you pick up a package of franks, the first few items on the ingredient list generally include some combination of mechanically separated turkey, chicken, pork and/or beef. According to the USDA, mechanically separated poultry is actually ?any product resulting from the mechanical separation and removal of most of the bone from attached skeletal muscle and other tissue of poultry carcasses and parts of carcasses that has a paste-like form and consistency.?

This paste generally contains a higher content of bone fragments than actual meat. Can you say, ?Yum, yum??

One cartoon sums it up quite well: ?Even hot dogs are shocked when they find out how they?re made.?

The hot-dog industry must love baseball, because 9 percent of all hot dogs are purchased at baseball stadiums. Americans eat 150 million hot dogs on the Fourth of July alone.

There?s a joke that must have been popular some years ago when the New York Yankees were regular World Series participants and the Boston Red Sox weren?t.

?What?s the difference between a Yankee Stadium hot dog and a Fenway Park hot dog? You can buy a Yankee Stadium hot dog in October.?

In case you?re on ?Jeopardy? and the category is hot dogs, you should know that Americans consume about 20 billion hot dogs a year, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council. That?s about 70 hot dogs per person, per year. And an estimated 95 percent of U.S. homes serve hot dogs at one meal or another.

Granted, most of us ignore information that links hot dogs to an increased risk of cancer, which is likely due to the additives used in the meats, namely sodium nitrite and MSG.

In order to pique your appetite for the upcoming July 4 hot-dog-eating contest, the top male and top female qualifiers earn a spot to compete in the ESPN-televised finals at the original Nathan?s Famous, a holiday tradition since 1916.

For what it?s worth, Joey Chestnut of San Jose, Calif., holds the world record for eating 69 Nathan?s Famous Hot Dogs and Buns in 10 minutes, and will seek his ninth straight title this year.

Miki Sudo of Las Vegas won her first title in last year?s championship in which she consumed 34 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes.

I wouldn?t classify this as must-see TV, but if you choose to watch the contest, you might want to keep the Tums nearby.

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