Just one month before the year's foremost competitive eating event, the organizers of the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest in Brooklyn, N.Y., repainted a mural outside their boardwalk location, replacing depictions of the sport's forebears, like Ed "the Maspeth Monster" Krachie and Mike "the Scholar" Devito with current stars such as Juliet Lee and Crazy Legs Conti.
Competitive eating veterans told AOL News that the new mural is a sign that competitive-eating officials have no problems chewing up and spitting out athletes the second they've passed their prime.
"I'm very disappointed," said Ed "Cookie" Jarvis, whose likeness was removed from the wall. "They took us off the wall without even calling us first."
Jarvis retired from competitive eating four years ago, but he insists his impact on the sport is still felt. During his short career, Jarvis set 31 eating records, some of which still stand today, like his historic consumption of 6 pounds of ham and mashed potatoes in 10 minutes.
"They want you to sign a waiver to put you up on the building, but they don't even tell you when they're going to take you down," added the Long Island resident, who said he gave so much to the sport he once lost a tooth during a cannoli eating contest.
Jarvis admits that competitive eating's new stars draw bigger crowds than he did in his day, but he says the Coney Island wall should continue to honor himself and other competitive eating legends like Don "Moses" Lerman, who's equally fed up with the new mural.
"[Just] three days ago I was asked to promote Nathan's Famous You Be the Judge Sweepstakes," Lerman wrote on his website, the Lerman Report. "How low can you get?"
Nathan's Famous President Wayne Norbitz says he didn't put up the new sign to snub competitive-eating legends, but instead to freshen up the building's facade.
"The reason that we changed the graphic is that the wall is in the sun -- the design fades," said Norbitz. "We needed to upgrade the look of it, so we decided to not just redo it the way it was.
"We decided to make the picture more current with people who have competed more recently," added Norbitz, who noted that the wall's bottom continues to list all of the winners of past Nathan's contests -- though insiders are quick to point out that many top eaters retire without ever winning big in Coney Island.
International Federation of Competitive Eating President George Shea insists Nathan's was right to repaint the wall -- but he's been stunned by the public outcry against the new mural and the backlash against his league.
"The heat is on," said Shea. "This has revealed a gap in the way that we are responding to the fans and to the past eaters. I feel exactly like Crazy Legs Conti feels after a jalapeno contest -- the pain doesn't stop."
According to Shea, the controversy stems from a disagreement about the role of the sign.
"What's being questioned right now is the definition of the 'Wall of Fame,'" said Shea. "Is it a 'Hall of Fame' to honor those of the past, or is it a 'Wall of Fame' to honor those who are currently at the top of the game?"
Shea adamantly believes it to be the latter.
"I hate to come off as the Simon Cowell of competitive eating, but many of these eaters don't belong on the Wall of Fame. They're not famous anymore. That's the truth," he said. "Time marches on, and it's not going to sit there and wait for these guys."
As a consolation, Shea said he's discussed launching a competitive-eating award show, called the Tummys, to commemorate the sport's top athletes.
There have also been talks about establishing a true competitive-eating Hall of Fame to pay tribute to the legends of yore and display important competitive-eating memorabilia, like Jarvis' embroidered jacket and the teeth of 1916 Nathan's champ James Mullen, which, Shea said, have been preserved in a seltzer bottle with vinegar.
Competitive-eating judge and journalist Gersh Kuntzman insists a stand-alone Hall of Fame would be the only way to appease both current eaters and the stars of yesteryear.
"A sport as important to America as competitive eating needs to have a true Hall of Fame which serves as the bedrock upon which the foundation of our collective memory is built," said Kuntzman, who broke the story about the new sign in a column in the Brooklyn Paper.
"More important, every one of today's quote, unquote heroes stands on the shoulders of true giants like Ed Krachie, Mike Devito and of course that other guy whose name I can't remember."