With his left hand cupping his mouth, “Nasty” Nathan Biller looks like he’s having urges contrary to swallowing. He’s hunched over a folding table, steadying himself with his right hand. And in that hand, he’s clutching a hot dog. The only one left on the plate.
“Seven, six, five,” counts the emcee, screaming into a microphone, as the audience shouts along with him in unison. “Four, thr…”
With two seconds left, “Nasty” Nathan stuffs the six-inch wiener, hot dog bun and all, into his mouth. He’s chipmunking like crazy. He stands up, takes a sip of water to help get it down, then crumples back over the table. He stares down at four empty paper plates.
Each plate started with five dogs. Officials count the empty plates and remaining dogs, buns and debris of the other 14 competitive eaters, as he chokes down hot dog No. 20. But would that be enough to win, to qualify for Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island?
To earn a spot in the Super Bowl of competitive eating, a gurgitator must win one of the qualifiers. And yesterday's qualifier held at a Sam’s Club in Plano, was the first one ever held in the Dallas area. Under a 40-by-40 foot tent in the parking lot, about 150 people gathered to watch the 15 eaters do what they do best.
Starting at noon, the competitors had to scarf down as many HDBs -- hot dogs and buns -- as they could in 10 minutes, while songs like “Hungry Like the Wolf” and “Eye of the Tiger” blared from the loudspeakers.
Bryan “The Chazzer” Lipchitz was nowhere near the pig his nickname suggested.
“I got six,” he said. “It’s hard, but I’m glad I did it. And that soggy bread is disgusting.” After the contest, he officially announced his retirement from the world of competitive eating to Unfair Park.
However, despite only eating nine HDBs, Marc "Meat Sweat" Laureys said the contest was only the beginning of his career in competitive eating. “I really like oysters,” he said. “So it’d be a fun road trip to head to New Orleans.”
And in this, his first IFOCE event, Jim “Dr. Claw” Clawson ate a remarkable 10 HDBs. But, as far as local eaters goes, Timm "The InTimmidator" Dilling topped the homegrown gurgitators by eating a whopping 15.
By choking down 20, “Nasty” Nathan Biller of Wichita Falls managed to beat his personal-best record of 19 and a half HDBs. But, unfortunately for him, when the 10 minutes were up, he didn’t beat his Californian archrival "Double-O" Kevin Ross -- they tied. A fitting result, because in the international rankings of the IFOCE Ross is ranked 29th and Biller the 30th.
“This is the first time in two or three years that we’ve had a tie,” Ryan Nerz, the event’s emcee, told the audience. The tie automatically triggered a rare two-minute eat off. After the contest, Nertz told Unfair Park that Ross had suggested a coin toss: “That’s when I knew he was in trouble, but [Biller] wanted it -- the eat-off.”
In the still, before the clock started again, Ross looked pale and concerned as he moved his cups around on the table, his fingers stained pink from dunking the hot dogs in cups of ruby-red Crystal Light.
As the eat-off started, they were neck and neck.
Earlier in the day, Biller repeatedly proved deserving of his nickname. “Nasty” Nathan had wiped everything from snot to wet bun crumbles off his jowls. But nothing he did could top Ross’ actions in the final seconds of the eat-off.
After the final countdown, Ross had a “reversal of fortune,” as it’s called in the competitive eating circuit.
“My Lord, ladies and gentlemen!” Nerz moaned. He was dressed in a striped seersucker suit and a straw barber-shop-quartet-style hat, but, for the first time, he came across more like a carny barker than emcee. Catching the material in his cupped hand, Ross paused for a second, like he was deciding whether or not to reverse the reversal. (Capiche?) Then he slung it to the floor and spit out the rest of a half masticated wiener.
It sounded like all 150 people watching let out a collective, “Aaaawww!” followed by an extended, “Eeewwwww!”
That cinched it. The contest was over. In the two-minute eat-off, after already devouring 20, Biller managed to stuff down five more HDBs. With his cheeks still bulging, Nerz declared him the winner.
As the crowd cheered and applauded, “Nasty” Nathan Biller stood with his hands held high above his head. He wasn’t smiling. After all, it is hard to smile when you have a wiener in your mouth. --Daniel Rodrigue
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