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10-year-olds and fat guys used to win the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest

Back in the day, there was no such thing as a "professional eater." There were just hungry guys.

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The Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest is the preeminent event in the world of competitive eating. ESPN cameras will be there, televising the event live across the nation. Joey Chestnut, America's greatest hero, will be there, shoving food in his face better than anybody has ever shoved food in his face. He has crafted eating into a science, building his body such that he can cram more food inside of it than anybody else on the damn planet. When he wins, he'll receive $10,000 and a mustard belt.

This is all great and good. The Fourth of July is about America, which is about shoving food in your face, and therefore it's great and good that on the Fourth of July we make an enormous deal out of the people who are best at shoving food in their face.

However, I'd like to take a moment to reflect back to a simpler time, the hot dog halcyon. When the Nathan's contest was first held back in the 70's -- Nathan's somewhat jokingly claims the event has been held since 1916, but acknowledges this is not the case -- the winners weren't food consumption technicians. They were just hungry dudes, and the winner was the hungriest dude.


Brooklyn college student Jason Schechter wins the first contest by eating 14 hot dogs, and wins a certificate for 40 more hot dogs.


Brooklyn native Roberto Muriel eats 10 hot dogs. After the contest, he asks for an 11th, saying he "still felt a little hungry."


10-year-old Kevin Sinclair ties 18-year-old Manel Hollenback for the win by eating 10 hot dogs. He says he is "full."


Thomas DeBerry from Coney Island eats 11 hot dogs in the first five minutes of a 10-minute contest, then leaves because he has to go to a cookout. There is no word on whether he received a trophy.


245-pound Mark Heller eats 15.5 hot dogs. "It was frantic, stuffing those hot dogs in my mouth."


Joey Chestnut will probably eat more hot dogs than all those winners combined. We should celebrate him for being the best eater of things in the history of the world.

But as you celebrate Fourth of July, and you've already drank a lot or eaten a lot, and you think you're hitting your limit, I want you to reflect. Think about that hungry 10-year-old, or that fat guy, or that guy late for his cookout -- unheralded champions who ate ridiculous amounts of food just because they could. They are the spirit of unnecessary excess that we should all embody on America's birthday.

Find your inner Early Hot Dog Champion. Eat one more thing.