Since last we heard from Cleveland’s preeminent competitive eater [“The Ballad of Beefcakes Bickel,” January 12, 2011], our hero has taken to shouldering the Sisyphean task of bringing home the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest world title.
For Bickel, that means a tireless regimen of chugging water, chowing everything in sight, and performing ludicrous exercises to limber up his jaw in preparation for the annual July 4 event on Coney Island.
Bickel thought his next step would include a flight to California or North Carolina to compete in a qualifying contest that could win him a seat at the main event. But he’s been handed a surprise: Nathan’s is coming to Beefcakes instead.
For the first time, Major League Eating will hold one of the Nathan’s qualifying rounds here in Cleveland. Coincidence? It’s hard to say. When asked if he thinks the contest is coming in response to the Bickel sensation that’s sweeping the nation, the humble nosher demurred. But yes, he’s thrilled.
“The fact that they’re coming to Cleveland makes it more exciting because now I can do it in my hometown,” Bickel says. “When I found out, I was so anxious I couldn’t sleep. I was up for like six days straight.”
The event is scheduled for June 2 at Tower City. Bickel will compete alongside a handful of professional eaters and other outside contenders. The final lineup has yet to be solidified.