His wiener rose again

Crowbar’s seventh annual hot dog eating competition crowns a two-time champion.

click to enlarge HOT DOG HERO: Two-time hot dog eating champion Keegan Maloney brandishing his second belt at Crowbar Wednesday. - JESSICA MOORE
HOT DOG HERO: Two-time hot dog eating champion Keegan Maloney brandishing his second belt at Crowbar Wednesday.

“The champ is here,” bellowed Keegan Maloney, defending champion of Crowbar’s Hot Dog Party 6: Armageddon, as he held a wiener-adorned championship belt high above his head. Bursting through the door to Crowbar’s patio after him was a close-knit group of friends known collectively as the Porch Beer Club.

Each one of the nine porch party compatriots was wearing a t-shirt specially designed to support their friend and help cheer him to an impending second title at Hot Dog Party 7: Rise of the Wiener, which would make him the first consecutive champion in the competition’s history.

“I had a vision of Keegan running through a field while it was raining hot dogs,” said Matt Kimmel, explaining the concept for his shirt, which he co-designed with friend Jessica Moore.

It was a rough year for Maloney and his phallic foe. He hadn’t eaten a single hot dog since last year’s party until one month before his triumphant return. However, Maloney said he still felt “insanely” confident.

Maloney’s only worry? Hot Dog Party 5 champion and Creative Loafing contributor Ray Roa, who ventured to the victory circle after gulping down a distending 11 wieners in seven minutes just two years prior. At last year’s contest, Maloney’s first (he signed up five minutes before), Roa was defeated by just half a hot dog.

As returning champ, Maloney says he felt the pressure.

“Watcha gonna do, brother, when the idiot runs wild on you?” Maloney growled in his best Hulk Hogan voice. The event — part barbecue, part rock show, and all hot dog — has grown steadily over the years according to organizer and Crowbar owner Tom DeGeorge. Numbers dipped to 80 people around the fourth and fifth years. Last year saw 200 attendees, but DeGeorge never imagined the crowd of more than 300 who witnessed Wednesday’s spectacle.

“Let’s get weird, Keegan,” one friend suggested as they made their way to the arena. “I got the strap.” He continued antagonizing the competition like some encased-meat version of famed WWE manager Jimmy Hart.

“People of Crowbar, Tampa Bay, and the world,” shouted the burly and bearded DeGeorge. “Are you ready?” The next seven minutes was a blur of meat-fueled intensity. Shouts of “Ray! Ray! Ray!” were met mid-battlefield by cries of “Kee-gan, Kee-gan, Kee-gan!”

Cameras flashed, women (and some men) swooned. Overwhelming cheers made any commentary from the stage nearly inaudible. And as time ran out, confusion washed over the room. It appeared as if Roa and Maloney had tied. Then DeGeorge announced it. Again, with a half hot dog advantage, Maloney was the victor.

“It’s embarrassingly awesome,” panted an exhausted Maloney while proudly grasping his second title belt. But his enthusiasm was not shared.

“As an Asian man, I’m used to falling a little bit short,” quipped a disappointed Roa. “And it hurts, but Keegan is a great competitor,” he added graciously.

While still onstage, Maloney declared, rather Lou Gehrig-ly, his gratitude, his happiness, his luck, and his retirement from competitive eating. Privately, in a moment with DeGeorge after the competition’s conclusion, Roa also retired “for the love of the game.”

And with that, the Crowbar Hot Dog Party’s greatest rivalry came to an end.

“It was a great day in that it was our biggest turnout yet with over 300 people, but a sad day in seeing two greats retire in Keegan and Ray,” said DeGeorge. “Much like Magic & Bird or Frazier & Ali, one cannot survive without the other. I’m sure we will go on, and a new champ will emerge next year.”

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