Takeru Kobayashi won't be on the Coney Island boardwalk for this year's Nathan's Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest but will compete from a distance via satellite TV.
Kobayashi, who can't compete because he refuses to sign an exclusive contract with organizer Major League Eating, says he will unofficially compete from a remote location to protest his ban from the Super Bowl of competitive eating.
Kobayashi still refuses to sign any exclusive contract with MLE and insists he will down hot dogs on July Fourth, simultaneously with the other competitors, in a mid-town Manhattan restaurant--a D train ride away from Nathan's.
Last summer, Kobayashi, was unable to compete in the Nathan's FFJHDEC because Major League Eating's contract stipulates that he can only participate in it's tournaments and the league has to have total control over Kobayashi's endorsement deals. He refused to sign.
"I hope to create awareness about the nature of this kind of business," said Kobayashi. "At least they cannot erase history," he said of his removal from the Wall of Fame.
While Kobayashi becomes a sort of pariah in the sport he once dominated, the current champ, Joey Chestnut has been getting all the glory.
Chestnut, 27, realizes the event isn't the same without Kobayashi.
"He's an awesome eater," said Chestnut. "He pushes me to work harder."
Some people are wondering if Kobayashi is making a big deal over nothing after setting a world record and personal-best of 64 1/2 downed barkers in 2009.
Some think Kobayashi is just losing his mind.
In 2010, while banned for the first time and watching the Nathan's competition from the crowd, Kobayashi leaped onto the stage in protest after Chestnut won and was arrested. He spent the night in a New York City holding cell. Charges were later dismissed.
This year's Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest will have a women only competition for the first time.
It's a shame Kobayashi and Chestnut won't meet again this year. It's sort of a Pacquiao/Mayweather predicament in the world of competitive eating. There may be competitions against others, but if the two best don't meet, it doesn't really matter.