In the annals of legendary sports rivalries, few are more fraught, complex and stomach-churning than the one between competitive eaters Joey Chestnut and Takeru Kobayashi. For several years, the pair went head-to-head in the annual Nathan’s Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest, and their story is the subject of a new 30 for 30 documentary, The Good, the Bad, The Hungry, premiering July 2nd on ESPN.
A new trailer for the film highlights Kobayashi’s remarkable eating career, during which he also held records for scarfing down meatballs, tacos, hamburgers and Twinkies. But Kobayashi is best known for his hot dog-eating exploits, winning the Nathan’s contest six years in a row between 2001 and 2006. In 2007, however, his reign came to an end when Chestnutt bested him, launching a remarkable, record-setting run of his own (Chestnutt has since won the Nathan’s contest 11 times, and last year broke his own world record by eating 74 hot dogs and buns).
But while this changing of the guard was a potent moment in and of itself, Chestnutt and Kobayashi’s rivalry grew even more complicated when the latter was effectively banned from the Nathan’s contest in 2010 over contract disputes. As the trailer teases, Kobayashi nevertheless showed up to that year’s contest in a “Free Kobi” shirt and was arrested when he allegedly tried to go up on the stage.
“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,” said director Nicole Lucas Haimes in a statement. “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.”