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The Weekend in Sports

Frank Fight

July is always the most intense sporting month of the year for us, largely because of the coincidence of the British Open golf tournament and the Tour de France. Golf is our favorite sport to follow. The four majors and the Ryder Cup are highlights of our year. We haven’t been to a major since our trip to Scotland five years ago to see the Open at Troon, but we always watch them when we can. Somehow, travel often interferes, as it did two weeks ago when we went to Vancouver on days two and three of the US Open. And last year we were down in Ojai, California during days two through four of the British Open. We spent Sunday morning watching the final round in our room before checking out to drive up to Santa Barbara. This year we expect to be here at home watching closely when the Open begins next week.

Another annual convergence of events takes place early each July — the start of the Tour de France and the end of Wimbledon. Two days ago the Tour opened with a short time trial in Monaco. I got up at 6:30 to turn on the women’s final at Wimbledon, Venus and Serena, and then we switched over to the Tour. Since it’s only the first day, there’s usually not much drama, unlike what happens two weeks later, when as often as not there are crucial Tour stages in the mountains as the British Open comes to an end. Indeed, this year, on Sunday the 19th, the Tour stage for the day will end with a climb to Verbier in the Swiss Alps, simultaneous with the Open’s final day. There won’t be a bigger sporting day this year.

Back to this past Saturday, two days ago. The Tour started. The women finished playing at Wimbledon. That alone would be plenty. Yet, there was much more, partly because of the fact that Saturday was not just the first weekend of July. It was also July 4th. As the Tour ended, the Mariners began playing a daytime holiday baseball game against the Red Sox at Fenway. Soon after that, CBS’s coverage began of the week’s PGA tour stop at historic Congressional Country Club, just outside DC, with Tiger fighting for the lead.

But remember, this is July 4th we’re talking about. So there was more. Yes, that’s right. Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. This may not sound like the most enticing event, but the rise of Joey Chestnut as a challenger to Takeru Kobayashi has made it a must-watch event in our house. Kobayashi had won six years in a row, until Joey upset him two years ago. However, Kobayashi was competing with a jaw injury, so we had to wait until last year for a clearer assessment of their relative merits. And what a year it was! After 10 minutes of eating — the standard competition time — they were tied with 59 hot dogs and buns eaten. Overtime was required. Each was given a plate with five hot dogs and buns. The first one to finish would win. And Joey won, finishing 7 seconds ahead of Kobayashi.

That set the stage for this year’s contest. There were other competitors, of course, including the next three finishers from a year ago, Tim Janus, Pat Bertoletti, and Sonya Thomas. But everyone expected it to come down to our two heroes, the Federer and Nadal of hot dog eating. And it did. As time expired, both smashed last year’s record of 59. Kobayashi had 64 1/2. But Chestnut won again, at 68. Amazing competitors. Bertoletti was a distant third at 55. I think Janus was fourth. Sonya Thomas broke her own female record with 41.

I fear that Kobayashi’s best days are behind him. Well, that doesn’t make sense. He does better every year. But I don’t see him catching Chestnut, who is only 25 and will continue to improve, while Kobayashi is 31 and perhaps at his peak. Still, as long as they’re both competing, we’ll keep watching.

Categories: Food, Sports
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