The show must go on. Around this time each year, thousands of Americans typically flock to Coney Island to take in the Nathan's Hot Dog Contest. One of the country's oldest sports traditions, the contest itself was threatened this year by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has caused a seismic shift in how people consume live events. Nevertheless, Major League Eating is still hosting the event — it's just going to be an overhauled event compared to how it's been conducted in the past.
Due to the need for social distancing, the event this year will be held at a private location so as not to attract a crowd. As with years past, ESPN will continue carrying a live broadcast of the event beginning at noon Eastern time on July 4th. This year, that happens to fall on a Saturday.
This year, ESPN commentator and former NFL athlete Mike Golic Jr. will serve as the play-by-play commentator for the event as Major League Eating's Richard Shea and ESPN's Jason Fitz provide color commentary. As of this writer, only 12-time champion Joey Chestnut and seven-time champ Miki Sudo have been confirmed as contestants. Typically each contest features a dozen competitors in each men's and women's division; this year, the field will be reduced to five contestants each.
"Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog-Eating Contest will air live on Saturday, July 4, at noon ET on ESPN," the network said in a statement Monday. "The one-hour telecast marks the 17th consecutive year ESPN has televised the event. Coverage kicks off at 12pm ET, with the women’s championship, followed by the men’s championship."
The statement added, "Nathan’s Famous will conduct the 2020 Fourth of July International Hot Dog-Eating Contest in Coney Island on Saturday, July 4, 2020. The annual contest, an American holiday tradition that traditionally has been held on the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues for generations, will take place in a private location with COVID-19 safety measures in place."
Chestnut has won the contest every year save for one since 2007. He was defeated by YouTube personality Matt Stonie in 2015. Chestnut also continues to hold the world record for hot dogs consumed at the contest, setting a new record of 74 hot dogs buns eaten during the 2018 contest.
Each year, Nathan's Famous and Major League Eating pair up to donate 100,000 hot dogs to Food Bank for New York City. It's expected a similar arrangement is in place for this year.
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