A July 4th Product Placement America

Bill Murray as Franklin Delano Roosevelt in "Hyde Park on the Hudson" solves world peace by encouraging The King of England to eat a hot dog. At first the King is reticent, expressing to The Queen, "...But, to answer your question, Elizabeth, I am going to eat a hot dog - five hot dogs - Ten!...I am going to shove them in my mouth, stick two up my nostrils, two more in my ears and walk around so that people can take pictures of the King of England with hot dogs hanging out of his orifices!" - But then the King eats one, albeit picnic style, and America goes wild! It's basically the story of Joey "Jaws" Chestnuts entry into Major League Eating and the July 4th Nathan's Hot Dog International Hot Dog Eating Contest, except Joey knows to separate the dog and the bun and that nostril stuffing and ear chomping don't count towards one's total. The mouth is the only orifice that counts and Joey was King of the Wieners. If FDR had vacationed elsewhere "Hyde Park on the Hudson," could have been titled, "Stillwell and Surf on the Coney," but Bill Murray is masterful as the former president, adopting the difficult speech pattern and look of the great FDR. I thought the hot dog stuff was stellar and it made me overlook the genesis of the film which seems to be FDR getting an over-the-pants-handjob from his cousin in a swanky car parked in a flower strewn field. It is Bill Murray's 2nd most iconic foray into frankfurt cinema, but more on that later.

July 4th has been digested and what better way to celebrate our country's great birth than to casually dine on too many hot dogs at a BBQ while watching the gustatory gladiators of Major League Eating professionally chomp too many Nathan's hot dogs on ESPN at high noon. I have been fortunate to travel with Navy Entertainment on six tours to entertain the armed forces by eating pro-am style at bases all over the world. It is simply the best thing I have done not only as a competitive eater, but as a human. To witness the daily and yearly sacrifices that the men and women of the military make to allow the freedom for me to stuff my self back home July 4th is awe inspiring, humbling, and life-changing. You can never be satiated on Patriotism. Still, a call from President Obama to the women's hot dog champ and the first lady to the men's champ would be nice. I know that First Lady Michelle is big on physical fitness and vegetables - not to worry, I am the four time corn-on-the-cob eating champ (46 ears in 12 minutes) and in November will be running the New York Marathon (5 hours and 33 minutes, predicted.) There is no better public relations than believing in America.

Shea Communications is the PR company that represents the Nathan's brand and facilitates the contest. Love of country and cased meats is in play, but also altruism as 100,000 Nathan's hot dogs are donated to the Food Bank for New York City each July 4th. To be an MLE eater at the finals on the 4th one must win one of the fourteen or so hot dog qualifiers all over the US. The champ, and for eight consecutive years it was Joey, gets a worthwhile bye to the finals, and one wild card is awarded to the highest HDBs non-winning total. Since 2011, Title 9 was demolished in pro-eating and the women have their own division, prize money, and yellow mustard belt in a smaller waist size. Each eater must pay his or her way to the qualifiers and is allowed to eat in three. Winning a qualifier gets each eater a spot at the finals (described as The Masters of Mastication, The Super Bowl of the Bowel, and The Tour de Feed), flight and accommodations, a per diem, and of course, free lunch on July 4th. If you live in NYC like myself, the flight is replaced by a $2.25 Metrocard but we do get to escape our tiny apartments for a hotel room for a couple nights and I'll use my per diem to get my after-party suit tailored to shorts and buy a yellow mustard premiere carpet for the entrance (the eaters pay for their own unofficial official afterparty but MLE kindly picked up the food tab - it was at Professor Thoms at 7:33 pm and the password was, "Swordfish.")

The prize money offered at the finals pays only to the 5th place for both men and women. That means ten eaters are taking a substantial loss to appear in the biggest event for our sport. Granted all of this is by choice, but one would ponder that for the most important lucrative day in competitive eating this seems odd. In 2009 Forbes Magazine wrote the following,"...But the clear winner was Nathan's. For what Eric Gatoff, chief executive, describes as a "high-six-figure" investment for the sponsorship (including the regional qualifying circuit competitions), the return was astronomical. Last year, the event generated more than $125 million in media value worldwide." That was seven years ago and since the price of eggs, milk, and gas has gone up; I'm guessing PR contracts and worldwide media value has too. Should every eater on stage deserve a pay day after shelling out their own coin to get there? I say, "Oh Yeah," but to prevent any dyspeptic displeasure from the primary sponsor, I have solved the problem. If Nathan's or John Morrell (the making of the hot dogs) can't pony up to pay out the table-enders (top ranked eaters who are not in the maelstrom of meat at the center of the table) I am willing to bet my lunch that some other sponsor will. After all - it's America, it's food, it's patriotic, and it's commercial. In a time where hallowed sporting events like the biggest boxing fight of all time or the triple crown producing Belmont Stakes are besieged by the appearance of fast food and energy drink product placement, it is time that competitive eating collect it's due.

At Major League Eating headquarters, each year preceding July 4th, they approach the major paper towel companies for sponsorship and each year, Bounty, Viva, Scott, Brawny, etc turn them down. Shame on you paper towel conglomerates...don't you see the value in being the one paper towel that can wipe the chin of someone who eats 20 - 60 hot dogs and then also clean up the mess that 30 people eating close to a combined 800 hdbs make. If you've seen the frankfurter and bun flotsam and jetsam on the table post-contest you'll realize that epic mess needs a durable amazing paper product. You, corporate American company, could be the detritus savior...if you also pay prize money to the rest of the field.

Why stop at cleaning products and paper towels. We've had additional sponsors in year's past from condiments to digestive aids but those were not specific to any eater and in a time where pro-eating only fully supports the top dog (the #1 eater makes over $200,000 a year in appearance fees, prize money, and sponsorship, the #2 makes about $35,000 - I am ranked #19 so you can do the math) it is time for each eater to make some funds via advertising, like NASCAR drivers, for his or her distinct brands.

I am an easy brand - a dreadlocked hippy hipster (often wearing Goorin Brothers or Pork Pie Hatters hats to keep the hair out of the food and Warby Parker sunglasses to protect from the glare of food fame) plus I have been sampling all the top mustache wax brands to see which (Firehouse, Fisticuffs, or Mountaineer) can hold up during a 100 wing outing at the Hooters World Wing Eating Championship. As an every day all-year-round shorts wearer, I was going to transition into culottes with either a mustard pair of golf knickers from www.kingscrossgolfknickers.com or a pink pinstriped pair from www.golfknickers.com but I was informed that all eaters' must wear official sponsor uniforms. At least I wore my Retromarine bathing suit under the contest shorts for a dip at Coney post contest. That allowed me to throw my game worn shorts to the crowd so they can sell them on Ebay (I am predicting the lucky recipient got well under $3 dollars). I also need strong sneakers for a suitable eating stance and debuted some Nike's in denim and day-glo baby blue with my name on the back. I am hoping those Nike reps saw the prototypes for aerobic eaters everywhere and sign me as their first stomach-centric athlete. "Just Eat It," could be my motto. Also, if you saw my ESPN entrance, I was wearing pink feather epaulettes, LED american flag dreads, and a Vivienne Westwood knock-off Buffalo Gal hat - I could have been an ad for the upcoming Columbia Pictures "Pixels" movie. Try the 2 min 47 mark here:

I am not alone, prospective sponsors - take a look at this commercially viable field of eaters. Joey does pretty well in his soccer Mom high-waisted jeans, but the #2 ranked male, Matt "Megatoad" Stonie wears skinny jeans exclusively. Hello H&M - talk about stomach styling and foodie fashion. Some say the skinny jeans and his tight top center his belly like a magnet to the mastication. Megatoad is playing Tetris in his esophagus and could do so in your signature pants. And what did Megatoad do on July 4th but hoist the yellow mustard belt, stealing it from Chestnut's gaping maw. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, but heavier still is the belly that bears the belt and now Matt Stonie could be bearing it in a signature H&M accessories line (plus his haircut, done by his aspiring stylist brother Morgan, is the new "Rachel" ala Aniston from Friends - One side is long, one side is shaved - it's like Natalie Dormer in an Anti-"Hunger Games" side bob! So cool. So cooling.)

Eater X, the #3 ranked MLE member, wears face-paint a la the Ultimate Warrior or a rodeo clown, but have you seen his model looks sans the make-up? Hello L'Oreal or Mac - you know you want into the unheralded masculine demographic. This is it- if your make-up can hold up to Eater X's third place finish, it can hold up to mascara running from all those screaming groupies (non-gender specific) when Eater X accepts the trophy . Wait, there is more...

(Cue Beyonce) "All the stomach ladies, all the stomach ladies..." Put your scrunchy sponsorship on now two-time female chomping champ Miki Sudo's pony tail (her style of digesting is known as, "the angry pony" as she shakes her head to aid swallowing.) Or maybe Miki should have shampoo or conditioner endorsements - her stunning locks, shining in the Coney Island sun thanks to Neutrogena or Dove. Former female champ Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas works at Burger King on Andrews Air Force Base, so perhaps just have that creepy plastic King as her counter (does his have plastic hands? Can he flip counting cards with them?)

Other top-ranked females include Michelle Lesco, a schoolteacher ("Buffalo Jim Reeves on the men's side is also a school teacher) and I think any textbook company would love to bring a little education to a lot of eating - or maybe Lesco and Reeves can be sponsored by a #2 pencil maker. Their eating is sharp and on point. Meredith "Deep Fried Diva" Boxberger has the best smile in competitive eating - while heading past twenty hdbs she still has time to flash the pearly whites (Hello Crest or Aim or even Tom's of Maine in the fennel flavor.) Really, any mouthwash company would be wise to get on board because if you are going to make out with some pro-eating groupies, minty hot dog breath is a must.

Rookie eater and Maxim model, New Zealand's Nela Zisser was flown in making the contest international as it says in the title. Perhaps Zales would like to sponsor her for a "One ring to rule them all" promotion or simply because she shattered all records for unwanted marriage proposals. There is an eater for every sponsor and a sponsor for every eater...a symbiotic relationship between the stomach and the stock prices.

Let's get back to Bill Murray, not as FDR, but as Tripper Harrison at Camp North Star, coaching the underdog Fink to hot dog glory in the movie, "Meatballs." It is the most iconic competitive eating scene in cinematic history - the one that all other's are judged by (it even inspired a podcast titled, "Fink beats the Stomach" on the heavy hitters network.) The engrossing film scene is inspirational and was my mantra when I took the stage at high noon this past and every July 4th.

Tripper: Mmmmm. Look at all those steaming wieners. Do you know what they're saying? They're saying, "This is the year that Fink beats 'The Stomach'."
[Fink picks up a hot dog and holds it to his ear]
Tripper: No, it's a couple of them over here... but they're saying it.

And Corporate America should start saying Major League Eating is where the action is regarding sponsorship, product placement, and endorsements. The possibilities are endless (I once wore an adult diaper to a bratwurst final due to an almost accident in a qualifying round. I ate 27 brats with confidence and comfort and lucky didn't have to use the diaper). Representatives at MLE headquarters are standing by, awaiting calls, emails, and offers. All I ask is that the sponsor pick up the slack and pay the prize money to the last place finisher - the eater without the trophies and novelty checks. The eater who ignored by The Foodarazzi, but chowdowns for the camaraderie - the brotherhood and sisterhood of the stomach. The eater who chews for the love of the gaminess, whose heart is clear and stomach pure...those who truly eat for America. I hope in the future that everyone one can have a happy product-placed consumer-driven commercially viable July 4th and God Bless the American Stomach!

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I know I should have stopped at that patriotic high note, but Harrison Tripper also said, "more important than the score of this game is to score at the big social at our place tonight," so I thought you should have all the details on the unofficial official hot dog after party at Professor Thom's on July 4th. There was an actual yellow mustard carpet for everyone's entrance and The Foodarazzi was snapping photos the way that 6'9'' Gideon Oji snapped dogs at Coney. Everyone looked hungry, fierce, and focused as the dress code was John Hughes prom semi-formal. Who was I be wearing? My shiny sharkskin suit (I didn't eat the shark myself) was paired with feather epaulettes from Danyell Gollwitzer's Axentz Easy shop and a Katy Perry tie from Staisha Grosch's DawgMutha Ties (she made me a wonderful plaid Britney Spears tie when I was going through my plaid Britney phase and I wore it in all it's white trash glory to a NJ Pork Roll contest.) If you think competitive eaters drool a lot at the competition table, you should have seen us at the after-party. Professor Thom's generously supplied mammoth trays of nachos and wings for the non-pro eaters and this year, superstar baker and chef, Sam Mason made us a custom ice cream from his Oddfellows Ice Cream stores - the flavor - "Whiskey Cigar Lobster" - which combined many of my favorite July 4th activities in one sweet final bite. I served it at midnight, wearing a plastic lobster bib, and the taste was a seafood rich lobster milk that gave way to an Islay peated whiskey followed by a carcinogenic throat closing. It was the perfect midnight snack.

If you want to be a VICD - Very Important Casual Diner - for the next after-party email me at www.crazylegsconti.com for your invitation.