As reported in Penn State's Daily Collegian -
Wings take back seat to madness in Philly
Eagles fever might be in its cold sweats phase right now, but last Friday morning it was at an absurd high.
The event was Wing Bowl 13, a preamble to that other bowl just a few days later, and while tens of thousands trekked south for the big game, the rest
of the city seemed to be either at the annual glutton-fest held by Philadelphia radio station WIP-AM (610), or trying to get in.
Now a little background for those out-of-state or on the JV side of Pennsylvania; Wing Bowl has grown from a small contest between two men into a
beast-like, Mardi Gras-ish extravaganza. Just to get into the contest, contestants have to eat either a silly amount of food or make sure that it
doesn't fit the norm. "Yao Wing" ate raw dolphin. Ed "Cookie" Jarvis ate six pounds of spinach in 1:19.
But I digress.
Maybe I was naïve in what to expect at such an event. Of all years, I chose the year the Eagles were in the Super Bowl to initiate myself in the
festivities. But I was one of the lucky ones to actually get in.
The masses started filling the Wachovia Center parking lots around midnight; Wing Bowl starts at 6 a.m. The first fan was there 6 p.m. the night
before. In the wee hours of the morning in South Philadelphia, thousands of taillights permeated the scene, and the parking lots were full of horns,
beer cans, humans on top of cars and fires scattered throughout.
Inside was even nuttier. On a normal Wing Bowl day, doors open at 5 a.m. Friday. I got in around 4 and it was a little after 5 when WIP overnight talk
show host "Big Daddy" Graham told all listeners to not even bother trying to come anymore.
The place was packed by 5:30 -- 20,000-plus fans, and as many outside still hoping to squeeze in. Outside they threw snowballs and broke fences, but
inside the white balls of fury were exchanged for beer cans and cups of soda.
Maybe the strangest thing about what I witnessed was the city's lingering fascination with summertime hero, Smarty Jones. All morning long I heard
chants of "show your bits," or something like that. I couldn't necessarily discern it completely with the ever-present roar, but the females in the
crowd always seemed more than willing to give the shirt off their own back for the cause.
It is truly the City of Brotherly Love.
Soon after morning show host Angelo Cataldi opened the show, the event was kicked off with the National Anthem, though not many realized what was
going on at the time. At about the fourth line, nearly all of the 20,000 attendees joined in to create an echoing, goose-bump-eliciting and
altogether, glorious rendition, that quite possibly was in the same class as Whitney Houston's Super Bowl XXV performance.
Instead of a Stealth Bomber fly-over, the aerial display came from the stands as beer cans and loaded soda cups were launched toward stragglers on the
floor. And for the contestants that were not named "El Wingador," they received the same treatment.
Each of the 26 contestants was paraded around in his or her own created procession, escorted by Wingettes that left little for the imagination.
Sonya Thomas, better known as "Black Widow," got it the worst. All 99 pounds of the returning champ were bombarded with not only beverages, but also
the oh-so-soothing boo.
If you haven't noticed, we're nearing the end and nothing has been spoken of the actual wing-eating contest. That is because it was merely a sideshow
to the freak-fest that is Wing Bowl.
By the time Round 1 began around 9, the crowd had tamed but a little. The first two 14-minute rounds sieved out the final three eaters, and the crowd
got what it wanted this year. Three-time Wing Bowl champion,Bill "El Wingador" Simmons got his chance to take back his crown stolen by the Black
And he did not disappoint.
After both were down by a few wings early to first-half leader Eric "Badlands" Booker, El Wingador and Black Widow wound up tied at the end of the
2-minute final round, forcing a 2-minute wing eating overtime.
El Wingador ended up eating one more wing than the Black Widow, winning 162-161 in 32 minutes. Booker, meanwhile, was disqualified by Wing Bowl
commissioner Eric Gregg (yes, the former MLB umpire) for not being able to get his wings down.
"You heave, you leave," Gregg said on the stage.
And so the fan-favorite reclaimed his title, along with a Suzuki Verona, and the city rejoiced, if only for a few days.
It was reported this week on Philly.com that El Wingador's throne was somehow stolen from the Wing Bowl on Friday. How a 9-foot, 250-pound throne gets
taken out of an arena with 20,000 fans without notice is beyond me. But after watching the most amazing spectacle of my life in which way too much was
consumed in way too little time, I can only assume that it wasn't long until all 26 wound up on thrones of their own.
And it couldn't have been pretty.
The Digital Collegian