What Happens If You Throw Up During Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest?

In the world of speed eating, when you throw down, you might also throw up. It's known as a "reversal of fortune," and if it happens, all the training and the preliminary competition required to qualify for Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest could go to waste. According to Major League Eating, which oversees major food competitions, entrants who reverse their fortune all over the place face disqualification. However, the outcome partly depends on where the spewed food lands. If it makes contact with the table, this induces a DQ and is dubbed a "Roman incident." (The expression presumably alludes to the misconception that ancient Romans had rooms called vomitoriums dedicated to throwing up. In reality, a vomitorium was a stadium passageway that metaphorically vomited people.)

Without the Roman incident rule, Takeru Kobayashi's famous Nathan's winning streak might have been shorter. In 2006, he scored his sixth consecutive victory at the event, despite becoming the spitting image of a hot dog fountain. Pieces of processed meat and bread erupted from his mouth in the final minutes of the competition. They ended up in a cup of water he had raised to his face — and he ate them again. Fellow competitor and future 16-time Nathan's champion Joey Chestnut tried to point it out to officials. However, since the food didn't touch the table, it didn't count. Kobayashi was credited with eating 53 ¾ franks in 12 minutes, setting a world record at the time. Chestnut came in second with 52.

When in Rome, don't have a Roman incident

The Roman incident stipulation benefited Takeru Kobayashi at least twice in six years and caused just as many controversies. During Nathan's 2002 hot dog-eating contest, he began heaving and holding his shirt to his face. That might sound a lot like he used his clothing as a makeshift barf bag. One of the other competitors thought it should certainly spell a DQ, but he had misread the situation. Kobayashi had the rules and a large lead on his side, but his disputed win still made headlines. Judge Gersh Kuntzman, who would help decide Kobayashi's 2006 victory, even penned a New York Post piece defending the 2002 outcome. Kuntzman not only cited the Roman incident rule but admiringly declared, "Bits of dog, bun and mucus ... did come out of [Kobayashi's] nose. But he lived up to his billing as the greatest eater in world history by promptly snort[ing] it all back in."

Kobayashi's vomiting came back to bite him in 2007, marking what could be considered a reversal of misfortune for Joey Chestnut. With only seconds to go in the Fourth of July showdown, Kobayashi struggled to contain the contents of his bulging mouth. And then it happened: He started throwing up. While he wasn't disqualified, his hot dog tally took a hit. Chestnut came out on top with 66, eclipsing the previous record. Kobayashi ate 63.