Kobayashi loses his appetite

On the eve of its most popular event, competitive eating has its first holdout.

Barring a last-minute change of heart, Takeru Kobayashi of Japan will not be at Nathan’s for Sunday’s annual Fourth of July hot dog eating contest in Brooklyn’s Coney Island because he can’t agree to a contract with organizers.

Kobayashi, one of the world’s premier competitive eaters, won the contest for six straight years (2001 to 2006), then had to settle for runner-up finishes behind American Joey Chestnut. Kobayashi moved to New York in March in order to train with local hot dogs.

But his chances of getting revenge this weekend against Chestnut seem slim because of a contract dispute with organizers. Kobayashi has balked at signing an exclusivity clause with the group and can’t compete unless he does.

Kobayashi, 32, is a celebrity in Japan, but the title has belonged to Chestnut, from San Jose, Calif., for the last three years. He set a world record last year by scarfing down 68 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes. Two years ago Chestnut beat Kobayashi in a five-dog eat-off, after they tied at 59 franks each.

If Kobayashi doesn’t have the stomach to compete, Chestnut’s toughest opponent will be Bob Shoudt, the world’s No. 2 eater, and Patrick Bertoletti, ranked fourth.

■ EIGHTH AVENUE TAKEOVER — You have to love the New Jersey Nets’ chutzpah. One block from Madison Square Garden, at Eighth Avenue and West 34th Street, the team put up a giant mural depicting owner Mikhail Prokhorov and minority owner Jay-Z proclaiming the Nets have “The Blueprint for Greatness.”

As if that’s going to convince LeBron James, or any other prominent free agent for that matter, to spend the next two-plus years of their life in Newark, N.J., before spending the rest of their career in downtown Brooklyn, which the Nets will eventually call home.

The billboard, which measures 85 feet by 225 feet, or slightly longer than an NHL rink, is one of the first shots fired across the New York Knicks’ bow in an attempt to steal the hearts and wallets of the long-suffering fans whose team has posted the NBA’s worst overall winning percentage since 2001. Worse than even the Clippers.

Maybe the Knicks can put up their own mural across from the Prudential Center in downtown Newark to tweak the Nets. There’s plenty of vacant space in which to do it. Then again, nobody’s going to show up, so why bother?

■ A LYRICAL WASTE — The cast of a Broadway musical is joining the chorus of New Yorkers wooing James.

In a video posted on YouTube, four actresses from “Promises, Promises” sing 26 reasons — from A to Z — that the NBA Most Valuable Player should sign with the Knicks. The lyrics range from art museums to zoos and insist that “despite what you’ve heard, New Yorkers are nice.”

It’s the latest in what has become a series of ridiculous video tributes to James. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg did one, as did Knicks superfan Spike Lee.


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