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By Jeremy Schiffres, Daily and Sunday Freeman, Kingston, N.Y.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Do you believe in overstatement?

Quite by accident, I wound up watching the Nathan’s hot dog-eating contest Wednesday afternoon. (I turned on ESPN expecting to find “Sports Center,” but they instead were covering the annual Fourth of July frankfurter frenzy live from Coney Island in Brooklyn.)
With about two minutes left in the 12-minute competition, and American Joey Chestnut leading, ESPN color commentator Richard Shea proclaimed – I kid you not -- that if Chestnut defeated six-time defending champ Takeru Kobayashi of Japan, which he ultimately did, it would be “the greatest moment in American sports history!” (And no, Shea wasn't being sarcastic.)
The greatest moment in American sports history? Is this guy for real? I’m not even sure hot dog-eating qualifies as a sport. But even if it does, we’re to believe that Joey Chestnut’s ability to scarf down a few dozen wieners is a greater American sports accomplishment than the U.S. hockey team beating the Soviets and ultimately winning the gold medal at the 1980 Winter Olympics? A greater accomplishment than Jesse Owens winning four gold medals at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin? A greater accomplishment than Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ’Round the World” in 1951? OK, Mr. Shea, whatever you say. You probably also believe Barry Bonds has never taken steroids and that O.J. Simpson is close to finding “the real killer.”
That said, it is worth lauding Mr. Chestnut for eating 66 hot dogs in 12 minutes -- because I don’t think I could eat 12 hot dogs in 66 minutes.



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