Mark Mallman, who played a show in the Entry later that night, was the MC, and played the role with gusto, razzing the judges, the competitors, and the institution of competitive eating itself. He ended with a solo unaccompanied rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner," delivered with the rock 'n' roll power that the day deserved.
Mallman has hosted the contest for several years. "You just have to recognize that it's funny," he said, "it's not a funeral, yet."
During the bout itself, a few eaters stood out from the pack. Nate Brennan, whose bio stated that he writes things for a living, owns a dog, and eats two to three times per day, shot out to an early lead and never gave it up. By the end, after looking the part of a competitive eater throughout, he was the champion, taking down seven diamond dogs, with buns, in 10 minutes. Brennan won the top prize: a platinum membership at First Avenue, 10 pairs of tickets to First Avenue shows, and a $50 Depot Tavern gift card.
After the destruction was over, Depot staff handed out two plates of extra Diamond Dogs to the spectators. Of course I had to try one of these things for myself. The dog was delicious -- how could it not be? The 1/3 pound frankfurter itself was beefy and flavorful, and the bacon-wrapped and deep-fried element worked to greasy perfection. The chewy and substantial pretzel bun held everything together admirably.
Even after eating just one of these dogs at normal dining speed, however, I felt like I needed to lie down awhile to digest and mentally process the experience. After his victory, Brennan seemed remarkably composed. He had trained for two weeks, including a practice run at home and stretching out his stomach with lots of water.
"If I'm gonna do it," Brennan said. "I'm gonna do my best."
Beyond simple pride in his work, Brennan was motivated by the great prize offered by the Depot, and wanted to check "win a hot dog eating contest" off his bucket list. He said that if the right opportunity came along, he might step back into the arena of competitive eating, but that was the last thing on his mind right now.
"I don't need any more sodium for a long time."
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