Fourth of July and Nathan’s hot dogs rekindle memories for Fran Fraschilla

Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest

Millions of people will tune into ESPN’s coverage of the July 4 Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest (live on ESPN3 at noon, ET; tape delay on ESPN2, 3 p.m.).

Most watch for the spectacle of competitors stuffing their faces with an overabundance of meat and buns. But ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla watches mainly for the childhood recollections.

“When you bring up the name ‘Nathan’s’ it conjures up a lifetime of great memories for me,” said Fraschilla.

ESPN's Fran Fraschilla

Born and bred in Brooklyn, N.Y., about two miles from Coney Island, Fraschilla enjoyed many of his days and nights on the rides, eating food, playing games and taking in the scenes Coney Island affords.

That included a weekly, Friday night family trip to the original Nathan’s for a dog and fries. By the time he had left for college, he had spent so much time at Coney Island, he “could’ve found it blindfolded from my house.”

“My parents raised seven kids on a fairly middle class salary,” said Fraschilla. “And every Friday, when my dad got home with his paycheck, the nine of us would jump in the station wagon and go to Nathan’s for dinner. I still have family there and I try to get to Nathan’s as many times as I can when I get back.

“Coney Island was an awesome place in the summer growing up,” he said. “It was a huge part of my childhood. For anybody who grew up in Brooklyn, and especially for those of us who have moved out and around the country, Nathan’s is a lifelong memory.”

While he hasn’t been to the world famous eating contest, he would love to attend someday, “only if it could serve as an excuse to get a couple dogs and the best French fries.”

Just don’t expect to see him on stage competing against the likes of Joey Chestnut, Patrick Bertoletti and Sonya Thomas.

“The extent of my training was growing up in a large family,” Fraschilla said. “When there are nine of you, you have to eat quickly in case there were leftovers.”