It’s just after 2 p.m.(ET) on the Fourth of the July. But I’m betting the top image on SportsCenter today will be YES’s frame of Kevin Youklis’ shot falling out of Johnny Damon’s glove as he crashed into the left centerfield wall, and the ball then resting atop the fence. The ball teetered and then fell back into play. Damon, with a fan emphatically pointing through the plexiglass toward the sphere on the warning track, fired it back in as the Bosox tied the game at 3-3 with the two-run triple.
Yes, the New York Yankees hosting the Boston Red Sox at the Stadium (25 years after Dave Righetti struck out Wade Boggs to complete an Independence Day no-no at The House That Ruth Built), and the gentlemen’s semifinals at Wimbleon are two big sporting events.
But they both took a backseat today to the pride I felt in watching Joey Chestnut defend his crown at the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest and keeping the Mustard Yellow Belt in the States where it belongs.
Chestnut, who had ended Takeru Kobayashi’s streak of six Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating contests at Coney Island last July 4, was down two dogs with 90 seconds to go (strangely, the contest was scaled back two minutes to its supposed original 10-minute length; the putative authenticity removed any chance for the contestants to topple last year’s mark of 66). Yet, he showed the tenacity and guts to munch, crunch and bunch more franks into his face.
In a photo finish –some might say, it was a combination of hometown cooking and jingoistic judging –Chestnut squared the "Tsunami" with 59 buns and dogs. Sadly, there wasn’t any replay of Chestnut’s sensational last-minute scarfing or remarks from the ESPN crew questioning the Japanese legend’s four dogs-four buns technique as a shaky strategy when holding a late lead.
In the first-to-five "dog-off," it was all Chestnut. The American topped the former champion by a full frank. Hooray for the Mustard Yellow Belt and the ol’ Red, White and Blue.
If there was any consolation for Kobayashi fans, it came during the post-dog-off interview when he said through an interpreter that he would return to Brooklyn next year — it was feared that his arthritic jaw condition would lead to an early retirement.
Next year, the Fourth falls on Saturday, scheduling that should see a TV menu overlapping "Breakfast From Wimbledon" with Nathan’s version of a boardwalk brunch.
My suggestion: introduce a strawberries and cream slurping competition as the prelim to Chestnut’s three-peat quest. And put your money down on Patrick Bertoletti: He’s the record holder in both the strawberry shortcake and strawberry rhubarb pie categories, according to the International Federation of Competitive Eating.