Joey Chestnut and Takeru Kobayashi are the subjects of “The Good, The Bad, The Hungry” which airs two days before this year’s event.

By Mike Pomranz
Updated July 02, 2019

Here’s a question that’s sure to spark some lively debate: Is professional eating actually a sport? On one side of the argument, New Jersey won’t let its sportsbooks take action on the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. On the other side, I’d like to see you or anyone you’ve ever known eat 74 hot dogs in ten minutes — which was Joey Chestnut’s record-setting performance last year — without some extensive training.

Another sign that the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest is worthy of sport status is its television coverage. This year, the annual event held in Coney Island is being televised on ESPN2, but beyond that, on July 2, two of the competitions biggest stars are also getting the ultimate athlete treatment: their own 30 for 30 episode courtesy of ESPN Films.

Airing two days before this year’s contest, “The Good, The Bad, The Hungry” looks at the longstanding rivalry between six-time Nathan’s champion Takeru Kobayashi and 11-time champion Joey Chestnut who first dethroned Kobayashi in 2007 and has won nearly every year since. (Internet favorite Matt Stonie was a surprise winner back in 2015.)

The 77-minute documentary — which actually premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival in April — is said to explore “the origins of the careers of Kobayashi and Chestnut, every bite of their head-to-head battles, as well as the no-holds-barred promotional efforts of Major League Eating, the organization that oversees the contest.”

“In making ‘The Good, The Bad, The Hungry,’ I realized that beyond the rivalry between Kobayashi and Chestnut, there were greater themes at play than just who could eat the most hot dogs,” explains Director Nicole Lucas Haimes. “The film ultimately became a classic American tale exploring the notion of personal fulfillment, as well as touching on greater ideas around nationalism, truth, and power.”

Chris McGrath/Getty Images

“The Good, The Bad, and The Hungry” will air on July 2 at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN. The Men’s Championship of the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest will air live on ESPN2 on July 4 as a one-hour telecast starting at noon ET. Prior to the main event, the Women’s Championship will begin at 10:50 a.m. ET on ESPN3 and the ESPN app.