The Wing Bowl in Philadelphia is a chicken-wing eating contest sponsored by a local TV station 94WIP and has been characterized as ” the worst event ever“. According to one article written a decade ago the Wing Bowl, which is traditionally held the Friday before the Super Bowl, “ is an excuse for Philly fans to drink excessively, crowd into the Wells Fargo Center, ogle large breasted women and heckle contestants“. Little wonder that it has become such a roaring success.
This year’s edition, Wing Bowl 23,was attended by no less than 20,000 people who crammed into the Wells Fargo Center last Friday well before the 6 AM start time. In fact, the place was packed to capacity at 5:30 AM and doors had to be closed. No problem, because those who couldn’t get in partied in the parking lot, the scene of numerous tailgate parties.
The prelude to the actual competition actually lasts two hours itself, much more than the contest itself. Contestants clad in outlandish costumes make their way to the stage escorted by scantily clad ” Wingettes”. This year contestants included Matt and Cheese( who rode in on a giant box of Macaroni), Santa Dog ( clad in only briefs), El Clownador, The Animal Cannibal ( who was enclosed in a cage), Nacho extreme, and Egghead. One contestant came in dressed as North Korean dictator , Kim Jong Un, and was subjected to a chorus of boos.
New Jersey governor Chris Christie, whose name is mud in NJ and Philly, because he was a guest of Jerry Jones at the Dallas Cowboys playoff win over Detroit, was the subject of much unfavorable comment. A TV clip showing him falling off a chair at a 94WIP interview was played repeatedly and one contestant entered the arena clad in the trademark red Cowboy sweater accompanied by an entourage which turned on him and beat him up to the vociferous approval of the crowd.
Because the event was under the aegis of a rival professional eating Organization, past winners such as Joey Chesnut, Takeru Kobayashi and Sonya” the Black Widow” Thomas did not compete. However, even if they had, they would have been hard put to win. The number of wings eaten by the winner is truly outstanding. How many wings do you think the winner ate in 26 minutes( two 12 minute periods followed by a two-minute final stanza)? Think about it. ( The answer appears later in this post.)
The event was won by Patrick” Deep Dish” Bertoletti of Chicago who edged out last years winner Molly Schuyler, a 5′-7”, 125 pound mother of four from Nebraska. Schuyler is a source of wonder for me. I couldn’t imagine how a comparatively small woman could compete and best the ” big boys” in an eating competition. Then I read bout her past exploits. She once ate a 72-ounce steak in three minutes and two 72-ounce steaks( a total of nine pounds of meat) in under twenty minutes. And last year, she won the Wing Bowl by downing 363 wings in 26 minutes. 363!!
This year, Bertoletti and she went neck and neck. At the end of the first twelve-minute period, she trailed him 206-208 but, after the second period, she was in front 399-393. However, in the final two-minute period, Bertoletti devoured 51 wings to beat her 444 -440.These numbers are mind-boggling to us ordinary joes who feel stuffed after we have eaten a dozen wings. Where do these people put away all this food and what do they feel like afterwards? Pretty terrible, according to one contestant, who added that it usually takes two or three days for him to get back to normal.
That contestants would willingly subject their stomachs to such abuse is surprising until one hears of the prizes they are competing for.The winner, Patrick Bertoletti, got a $ 10,000 prize, a top of the line Harley Davidson motorcycle which was worth at least as much and a championship ring. Schuyler got $ 10,000 and some other prizes. The winner of the College Division , Stormin’ Norman from UPenn drove home a brand new Chrysler 200 and Kate( Wingette number 5) won a cool $ 5,000 and a hot tub.
I have mixed feelings about these eating contests. On the one hand, they are a source of fun , particularly the Wing Bowl which is held in the dead of winter. On the other hand , they are a criminal waste of food and encourage gluttony and unhealthy eating habits. The Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating contest held in Coney Island on the fourth of July seems more enjoyable and wholesome ( or at least, less objectionable) since it is held outdoors in a carnival like atmosphere that is not prurient. The Wing Bowl, on the other hand, with its emphasis on scantily clad women and beer drinking has less to commend it. I enjoy reading about these contests but would not want to attend any of them in person.