061008nathans.jpgGeorge and Richard Shea, the two brothers who run the annual Fourth of July hot dog eating contest at Nathan’s on Coney Island, are considering changing the duration of the competition from 12 minutes to 10 minutes, and some competitive eaters are finding the new rule hard to swallow. George Shea told the Brooklyn Paper that the change is being weighed after an investigation into the traditional time limit unearthed a 1986 Times article that clocks the contest at 10 minutes.

Therefore all qualifying rounds
will last just 10 minutes this year, and the ultimate July 4th battle will likely be shortened to that time as well. The change has outraged reigning champ Joey Chestnut, who didn't edge out six-time champ Takeru Kobayashi until the last few minutes of last year’s contest. Chesnut calls the change “ridiculous.”

One competitive eater, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, accused the Shea brothers of changing the rules to appease Nathan’s, because recent contests have led to the very public vomiting of their product: “That’s the last image that Nathan’s wants on TV screens all over the country — people spitting up their delicious hot dogs.” George Shea vigorously denied that suggestion, telling BP, “That’s not the issue! The issue is history, and the preponderance of the evidence now suggests that the contest was always 10 minutes.” But reporter Gersh Kuntzman ends the story by referencing two Times articles from the ‘70s that report the contest as lasting just three-and-a-half-minutes. Developing!

Image of Takeru Kobayashi and Joey Chesnut at last year's contest via ESPN.