Controversy to Coney: Big Brian and Crazy Legs

Controversy to Coney: Big Brian and Crazy Legs
by Newbear Lesniewski

If - borrowing from Crazy Legs Conti - the Concord Mills Mall food court equates to a coliseum of consumption, a mansion of mastication and a biodome of digestion, then - borrowing from Big Brian Subich - the Nathan’s Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest is the Daytona 500, the World Series and the Masters rolled into one.

The all-senses-blurring fury of speed and sound meets all-american wanderlust meets an all-you-can-eat tradition unlike any other at the corner of Surf and Stillwell.

“I was a fan long before I was a competitive eater,” CLC said.

“To be there for the 4th, to make it onto ESPN...that’s what we all shoot for. It’s the biggest deal in competitive eating,” Big Brian said.

For both eaters, their last chance to earn a spot on this year’s biggest stage came down to ten minutes of “eat up or shut up” at the aforementioned food court. Subich drove nine hours straight through the night, hopped on stage and ate.

“I know: nuts. I was absolutely exhausted,” he said.

Crazy Legs wasn’t even expecting him to show up.

“He was sheepish and apologetic, but prepared to eat and beat me,” he said.

And though both parties would later claim video-supported victory, Big Brian did just that, leaving North Carolina with the final Nathan’s 2011 qualifying bid.

“It’s real simple: when I left Charlotte, I didn’t think there was any controversy. I had eaten more and made less of a mess,” he said.

“I think it came down to one hot dog. And at the end of the contest, there was one (hot dog) at Subich’s feet - which, unfortunately, we ended up splitting. I’ll take a polygraph: that dog wasn’t mine. When it’s that close, I think it should go to overtime, and I would’ve been happy to continue eating,” CLC said.

“If Crazy Legs feels like that controversy is real, I’ll say this: I didn’t think it was as close as the final tally ended up being,” Big Brian countered.

Subich discussed the finer points of a completely clean paper plate amidst all the mess on the table when time expired. And we all know: sometimes paper plates seem to come laced with glue between each layer of the stack. But we also know: there’s no way a paper plate comes through any eating contest without at least a little debris.

Crazy Legs’ five empty plates would’ve equalled 25 HDBs, making him the clear-cut winner.

“If you were there - or if you watch the video on YouTube - you know that I was in the lead the entire time. At one point, George Shea even said, ‘Crazy Legs cannot catch up’. So unless he ate a mind-boggling amount in the final minute - something Joey Chestnut couldn’t even do - I don’t think it adds up,” Big Brian said.

“I did have an extra plate (at the end), so I wasn’t at 25, I was at 20. But if he wants to claim I was at 15, he’s out of his mind,” CLC said.

“I don’t think the math adds up, either. And I mean that I think I won. If you looked at Brian’s plates, it was like an explosion had gone off in the hot dog factory.”

Familiarity breeds contempt. Competition breathes the fire. And controversy stokes the flame. The aftermath can be as varied as the condiments you’ll choose over this extended holiday weekend.

“Here’s the deal: for ten minutes, we’re absolute enemies. But before and after, I feel like everybody should shake hands. Look at UFC guys: they try to bash in each other’s skulls - literally trying to force their opponent’s brains to come out of their ears - and then they hug after the contest,” Big Brian said.

Crestfallen. Heartbroken. Sobbing in his Pepto. Crazy Legs’ transparent personality remains incredulous.

“If we were truly friends, and he was going for his tenth straight appearance, and I told him I wasn’t showing up, I wouldn’t have shown up. Ultimately, the fault is mine - if I’d have eaten 25 HDBs, we’re not even having this conversation,” he said.

“I’d rather not dwell on the controversy, and after this interview I won’t comment on Charlotte again. But it’s not like we’re going to be shaking hands at Nathan’s, because I won’t be there unless Rich Shea blast out the Crazy Legs version of the Bat Signal.”

Big Brian Subich now heads to Nathan’s 2011 as an underdog, a role he’s relished since he was a dinosaur-footed offensive lineman at Clarion. Even though he’s lost nearly 50 lbs. on his meat-encased road to Coney, Brian embraces the fact that nobody thinks he’ll walk off that stage rocking the Mustard Yellow Belt.

“Stranger things have happened. Nobody bet a dollar on the U.S. vs. Russia or NC State and Jimmy V or Nova vs. Patrick Ewing. But those things happened. There’s a reason that winning isn’t guaranteed - and that’s why they play the game,” he said.

So Big Brian will eat with everything he’s got. Every inch of his 6’6” frame; each of his 325 lbs.

And Crazy Legs Conti will pause between each mouthful of lobster and every swig of Geary’s Pale Ale on this Fourth of July, searching for that dreadlocked hologram in the Portland, Maine sky.