Perhaps the easiest way to show how competitive eating has evolved from a curiosity into big business is the extent of the prize money. Winning the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, held annually on the Fourth of July in Coney Island, is worth $10,000. Joey Chestnut, who won the Nathan's event for eight consecutive years, competes in various competitions throughout the year, and he reportedly earned $230,000 in 2014.
Another sign? There are actually betting odds for the Nathan's contest. Nothing legitimizes a sport more than the approval of Vegas.
ESPN has locked up the broadcast rights for the Nathan's competition through 2024. This year, ESPN3 will stream the contest live at noon ET Monday. ESPN is scheduled to show a delayed telecast at 3 p.m. ET. Here are some key facts if you want to bone up on Nathan's knowledge:
What's the record for most hot dogs eaten?
Joey Chestnut ate 69 hot dogs during the 2013 contest. He also held the previous record with 68 in 2009 and 2012.
Who are the defending champions?
Matt Stonie won in 2015 to end Chestnut's reign of eight consecutive titles. Stonie, runner-up the previous two years, beat Chestnut 62-60. In the women's division, Miki Sudo repeated as champ with 38 hot dogs.
There's a women's division?
Nathan's created a separate competition for women in 2011. Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas won it the first three years, and her record of 45, set in 2012, still stands.
Why hasn't Takeru Kobayashi competed in this event since 2009?
Kobayashi won the last of his six consecutive titles in 2006. In the next three years, he finished second to Chestnut. Then he became ineligible to compete after he refused to sign an exclusive contract with Major League Eating. In 2011, Kobayashi staged a rival event as he competed by himself on the rooftop of a Manhattan bar -- at the same time as the Nathan's contest. Kobayashi reportedly ate 69 hot dogs, while Chestnut's winning total at Coney Island that year was 62.
How long does the contest last?
When Kobayashi began his winning streak in 2000, the time limit was 12 minutes. It was still 12 minutes in 2007 when Chestnut dethroned him. In 2008, the limit was changed to 10 minutes.
What's happens if there's a tie?
There's overtime. In 2008, Chestnut and Kobayashi tied were tied at 59 after the 10-minute time limit. Chestnut won the OT session by being the first to consume five more hot dogs.
Why do some competitors jump while eating?
This is known as the Carlene Pop Method. The theory is that the jumping helps to force the food down to the stomach.
How filling is one of those dogs?
A standard Nathan's hot dog has 280 calories and 18 grams of fat.
What's with all the nicknames?
Just like pro wrestling, competitive eating does its best to develop characters with memorable monikers. We've already introduced you to Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas. Stonie is "Megatoad." Chestnut is "Jaws." And one of the all-time classics is Rich "The Locust" LeFevre.
How did this all start?
The first contest was in 1972, and the winning total was just 14 hot dogs in 12 minutes. What about stories that say this event began in 1916? Apparently that was the work of some PR executives. One of them, Mortimer Matz, told the New York Times in 2010, "We said this was an annual tradition since 1916. In Coney Island pitchman style, we made it up."