2007_07_bloomberghotdog.jpgIt's our favorite July 4th tradition, this side of smiley-face fireworks: The Annual Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, held at Nathan's in Coney Island. And this year's competition is particularly tantalizing: Current champion Takeru Kobayashi has been having jaw pains, while Joey Chestnut broke the hot dog eating record, by scarfing down 59.5 at a June event. So we shall begin our liveblogging, and Jen Chung and Tien Mao will be providing other commentary during the competition from time to time.

12:09PM ESPN reports that they are expecting 30,000 people at Coney Island - and it does look packed at Surf and Stillwell. Kobayashi arrived, and apparently he's been getting acupuncture treatment.

Jen Chung: I like this bit of hyperbole from the Nathan's site: "The bejeweled Coveted Mustard Yellow International Belt, worn only by the International Champion, is to hot dog aficionados what Faberge Eggs were to Czar Nicholas. The belt is of unknown age and value, and is unveiled only at the annual contest."
Tien Mao: I like how it's the Mustard Belt, yet they aren't putting any of that tasty condiment onto their dogs.
Jen Chung: Well, Heinz is the sponsor.

2007_07_conislhd.jpg12:15PM Commentators mention that there may be a 13-dog pace, and that Joey Chestnut has quite the swagger. Plus Chestnut touched his jaw - is that trash talking?

Jen Chung: Ha, they called "Eater X" the Jake Plummer of competitive eating." And is it sexist that when they discuss Sonya Thomas, they say, "She's beautiful."

12:19PM Now it's the part of the ESPN segment where they visit the Coney Island side shows. The eating contest is in 21 minutes!! Oh, and the side show folks are discussing the fate of Coney Island, given the new development plans. They emphasize that Coney Island isn't shutting down.

Ooh, a feature on Chestnut. He seems focused.

Tien Mao: I don't know about ESPN's "Mustard Vs. Wasabi." I'm not sure I would consider mustard the national condiment of the United States. And I doubt they would consider wasabi their national condiment in Japan.
Jen Chung: I don't get the mention of Gedde Watanabe - is it just so they can say "Donger needs food?" Man, this is what happens when it's an eating contest between a Japanese champ and Americans!

12:27PM: ESPN interviews other competitive eaters to ask them about Kobayashi's jaw. They all like him and want him to feel healthy and good. Crazy Legs Conti says that great athletes fight through the pain, like Curt Schilling.

Okay, now they are calling out the competitors. Some of them are: Burrito specialist and wild card Tim Brown. Wild card Long Islander Allen Goldstein. Dale "Mouth of the South" Boone. Crazy Legs Conti from the Lower East Side. Juliet Lee, a 105-pound Chinese immigrant. Eric "The Red" Denmark. Arturo Rios, pigs' feet eating champion of the world.

Tien Mao: I love that Rios has a PR flag necklace
Jen Chung: And he's a Daily News driver!

2007_07_hotdog2.jpgAha, Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas! She's got many championships under her belt, including Turducken eating!

Jen Chung: How is your hot dog eating going, Tien?
Tien Mao: I'm proud to report that I can easily eat a hot dog in three bites.
Next attempt - two bites!

Tim "Eater X" Janus is holding a sign that says "Hermione Dies." Patrick Bertoletti does pushups on stage.

12:36PM Joey Chestnut, the world record holder for hot dog eating, arrives to a boisterous crowd! Now it's Takeru "The Tsunami" Kobayashi arrives, the crowd goes CRAZY!!!!

12:41PM Joey Chestnut's preparation: He had a gallon of water at 6AM. He hasn't been eating any solid food for the past two days. He's really hungry. And it's on.

Chestnut has eaten 10 hot dogs in 50 seconds. Kobayashi is trailing right behind him. Bertolini is in third. But it's still early in the competition.

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12:45PM Wow, Chestnut is at 36 dogs, Kobayashi has changed styles twice and is at 31 hot dogs. Bertoletti is at 28 dogs.

Jen Chung: stupid ESPN commentator mentioning According to Jim. I hate you, corporate synergy!
Tien Mao: Stop making basketball analogies! Most the watchers don't know anything about basketball
Tien Mao: I like the flat belly of the model behind Kobayashi. I wonder when the last time she ate was.

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Wow! Kobayashi pulled within one dog of Chesnut! A new record this year is coming!

12:49PM A new Nathan's record - Chestnut hits 54 dogs. But with 2.5 minutes left, Chestnut and Kobayashi are at 55 dogs. Damn!

The two break Chestnut's world record! 60 dogs!!!!

Time is called! Chesnut ended around 66 dogs, Kobayashi with 63. Kobayashi may have puked. It looks like Chesnut has won, but the judges are reviewing the tape. Dunh dunh DUNH.

Tien Mao: I think I just saw a reversal of fortune
Jen Chung: did Kobayashi puke?
Tien Mao: I think so! I saw water come out.
Tien Mao: The slo-mo replay was even more gross.
Jen Chung: It'll be all over YouTube.

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12:57PM Okay, the official announcement from George Shea. Takeru Kobayashi ate 63 dogs to secure second place, which means Joey Chestnut has brought the Mustard Belt back to America by eating an insane 66 dogs!

Tien Mao: Did you see george shea force the flag onto chestnut?
Jen Chung: I think the weather helped the record. It was a great competition, both were performing well.
Tien Mao: Yeah, great weather for the event.
Jen Chung: Last year was hotter.
Tien Mao: After watching how Kobayashi finished that contest, I'm glad that the broadcast on ESPN HD wasn't really in HD.

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Final standings: Chestnut ate 66 dogs, Kobayashi ate 63, and Patrick Bertoletti, who was eating in honor of Nicky Hilton (she's in the shadow of Paris, as Bertoletti feels he's in the shadow of Chesnut), ate 49 dogs. Chestnut told ESPN he could eat another hot dog right now.

Photograph of Mayor Bloomberg getting a hug from a Nathan's Hot Dog mascot at yesterday's weigh-in by Louis Lanzano/AP