Answer: When Takeru Kobayashi isn't taking part in it.
Just a few days out from the Nathan's event at Coney Island on July 4, the sport's most recognizable name is not a part of the field. If you're a rabid rating fan, it's a fact that's tough to swallow.
Major League Eating president Richard Shea released a statement yesterday saying that Kobayashi's contract negotiations broke down this year. The six-time winner from Japan is one half of a rivalry of titans with Joey Chestnut, an American who has won the last three years.
Now, anyone who has seen this event before knows it's about entertainment and showmanship. If this was all a publicity stunt to drum up interest, it wouldn't be all that surprising.
Think about it.
Kobayashi parachutes in moments before the contest begins with grand fanfare and proceeds to go frank-to-frank with Chestnut. That just screams freedom.
But if this is legit, and we're forced to stomach a Kobayashi-less hot dog eating contest, we all lose.