National hot dog hopes rest on ‘Humble’ man

philbin_shoudt_2006_400
"Humble" Bob Shoudt (right) of Royersford will be at the Nathan's hot dog eating contest Friday at Coney Island. Joining him will be these other two well-known eaters, shown here in a 2006 contest. Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas ate 38.5 in Virginia to qualify -- half a dog and bun more than Shoudt ate in Philly -- and Pat "from Moonachie" Philbin ate 22.5 to win Thursday's event in West Chester.

The final belches cleared on Saturday, with contests in Camden and California.

But only one Philadelphia-area competitor has made it to Friday's legendary hot-dog eating contest on Coney Island, which will be televised live at noon on EPSN.

He's "Humble" Bob Shoudt of Royersford, a world-ranked eater who gobbled 38 Nathan's franks last month to win the Philadelphia qualifier.

And he's a better burger eater, the vegetarian says.

Drexel Hill's Eric "Steakbellie" Livingston ate 20-3/4 in Camden Saturday, but lost to New York hip-hop artist Eric "Badlands" Booker, who ate 27-1/2.

On Thursday, Micah "Wing Kong" Collins, also of Drexel Hill, ate 22 at the West Chester qualifier, but lost by a measly half a dog-with-bun to Pat "from Moonachie" Philbin of North Jersey.

Shoudt's total was fourth highest among the 19 qualifiers who'll be at the July Fourth gorgefest, so you might think Shoudt stands a chance.

After all, he's ranked No. 5 in the world by the International Federation of Competitive Eaters and this will be his third straight appearance at the Nathan's national contest.

Frankly, though, everyone knows this will be a two-man race.

Joey "Jaws" Chestnut of San Jose last year inhaled a world record 66 to defeat Japan's six-time champ, Takeru Kobayashi, who ate 62.

Competitors will have only 10 minutes this year, down from 12, so the winner probably won't wolf down as many, said Shoudt, who's a vegetarian outside competitive eating events.

But he's not optimistic about reaching the high 50s, since he hasn't trained hard for this event.

"For me it is early in the competitive eating season. ... I am just going to have some fun and enjoy the day."

His sights are set on a Tennessee burger chowdown instead.

"My focus is on the Super Bowl of competitive eating - the Krystal Square Off V that will take place in October this year. This is the contest that most competitive eaters agree is the big one," he said.

Shoudt's personal best, according to the contest website, is 95 burgers - just two behind Kobayashi's 97, the old world record, busted last year by Chestnut's 103.

Don't expect to see any Krystal's qualifying events near Philadelphia. The closest store is in South Carolina.


Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or pmucha@phillynews.com.