Alex Rychwalski | Can you pass the Pepto Bismol?

Jul. 6—Every Thanksgiving, we watch the NFL; on Christmas, the NBA; and on New Year's Day, the New Year's Six bowls of college football.

For some inconceivable reason, competitive eating owns the Fourth of July.

Every year I'm disgusted, nauseated and repulsed by the sight of more than a dozen human beings inhaling frankfurters for 10 minutes at the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest. Yet, every year I find myself watching it.

Monday's edition featured more domination by American vacuum cleaner Joey Chestnut, who downed 63 hot dogs to win his record 15th title. Wearing a surgical boot, Chestnut put a protestor who ran on stage in a chokehold mid-competition before returning to the task at hand.

As is tradition, I took a swig of Pepto Bismol in solidarity.

It's also worth noting that Nathan's donates 100,000 franks to the Food Bank in New York City. There is at least some good being done here.

The total prize pool is a measly $40,000, and the winner takes home just $10k. Its greatest competitor, Chestnut, makes most of his money from endorsements, even selling his own line of condiments.

For the past two years, there's been a lemonade chug, both won by Eric "Badlands" Booker. The 6-foot-5, 400-pound behemoth consumed a gallon of lemonade in 30 seconds on Monday.

It's really a shame that on Independence Day, Major League Baseball doesn't make any effort to ensure July 4th belongs to America's pastime. Opting instead to put red, white and blue on its players' hats and call it a day.

Maybe we deserve to watch competitive eating on the day the Declaration of Independence was ratified by the Second Continental Congress in 1776.

We are a country of eaters. In yet another display of American domination on the national stage, we have the highest obesity rate among countries with at least 4 million people (36.2%).

Nathan's promoter Morty Martz claimed for years that the hot dog eating contest originated on July 4, 1916, when four immigrants held a competition at Nathan's Famous stand in Coney Island to settle an argument about who was "the most patriotic."

Martz later admitted the legend was a farce, but don't let the truth get in the way of a good story.

It's fitting, then, that during the contest's rise to prominence in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Japanese contestants dominated the "sport." Fans will remember Takeru Kobayashi, who won a then-record six consecutive Nathan's hot dog eating contests from 2001-06.

Kobayashi was like the Babe Ruth of eating wieners, nearly doubling the world record in 2001 with 50 hot dogs consumed in 12 minutes from the previous mark of 25.5.

In his prime, Kobayashi was listed at just 5'8" and 128 pounds. He introduced grotesque training techniques that are used today, like expanding your stomach before competitions to maximize the number of hot dogs that can be eaten.

He also had a trademark body wiggle when eating known as the "Kobayashi Shake," which he did to force food down his esophagus and become more compact in his stomach.

Kobayashi also split the dogs in half and dipped the buns in water, stuffing both parts in his mouth simultaneously in what he refers to as the Solomon Method.

In true American fashion, Chestnut has achieved fame, or infamy (depending on your view of the ordeal), by adopting and improving upon somebody else's innovations.

Kobayashi and Chestnut staged legendary battles from 2007-09 until Kobayashi, the "godfather of competitive eating," entered into a contract dispute with Major League Eating and never competed again after 2009.

The dispute draws many similarities to the NCAA and NIL.

MLE restricts its eaters' ability to make money from outside revenue sources. The league also brokers deals between the eaters and potential endorsement deals, requiring competitors to pay MLE up to 20% of gross profits.

Kobayashi wanted more autonomy, and he paid dearly for it.

In 2011, Kobayashi competed on a rooftop in Manhattan for the duration of the Coney Island contest, eating a then-world record 69 hots dogs. In the real event, Chestnut ate just 62.

With the exception of the surprising win by Matt Stonie in 2015, the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest has had little narrative intrigue in the past decade without a worthy challenger.

You could say the same about being forced to watch the Lions and Cowboys, two largely irrelevant franchises in recent memory, play on Thanksgiving year after year. Or the dampened importance of the modern New Year's Six bowls due to the College Football Playoff.

For better or for worse, the hot dog eating contest has become an American tradition, if only to inspire viewers to change the channel in disgust.

Maybe one year, the MLB will finally stake its claim to July 4 and save us from indigestion.

Alex Rychwalski is a sports reporter at the Cumberland Times-News. Follow him on Twitter @arychwal.