In less than 48 hours, they’ll already be plastered. By this time Friday, more than 20,000 bumbling men and a few very brave women will crowd into the Wells Fargo Center, get totally shitfaced on Miller Lite at 6 a.m. and stand in pools of vomit while managing to simultaneously degrade and ogle women.
Why? For 23 years, competitive eaters have stuffed their faces with chicken wings until they A. Won B. Lost C. Projectile vomited or D. Passed out from eating too much while being surrounded by people who found this kind of thing fun and entertaining in a live-action version of their favorite morning AM sports talk radio show.
Welcome to the Wing Bowl.
Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re a moderately rational person who’s heard about but never been to this annual shitshow. What’s it all about? Lucky for you, I did the research (and looked at all the photos, and asked for hazard pay) so you don’t have to. Here’s what’s going to happen at the Wells Fargo Center on Friday:
People are going to eat a bunch of chicken
Point conceded: This part is impressive. Every year since the Wing Bowl’s inception, the total amount of wings eaten by contestants has risen. Last year’s winner Molly Schuyler, a competitive eater from Nebraska, downed 363 hot wings. This year’s grand prize on the line: $10,000 and an $18,000 Harley.
In order to take part in the competition, wing-eating crazies have to either perform an eating stunt while on-air with WIP host Angelo Cataldi (normal things like eating 20 cups of cooked oatmeal, 60 ounces of creamed spinach with 60 ounces of hot sauce, and five Big Macs). OR, they can triumph in a “Wingoff,” which is a 10-minute eating contest held at area stores/ restaurants/ bars.
Here, you can peruse through this year’s eaters. Look at those smiles.
Sports talk show radio hosts will be in charge
Philly’s top-rated sports talk radio station 610 WIP hosts this morning of debauchery every year. The event was the brainchild of Cataldi’s right-hand man Al Morganti, fed up with the fact that the Eagles weren’t making it to the Super Bowl any time soon. Cataldi helps host the event; former Sixers president Pat Croce is the “commissioner” of the Wing Bowl.
Women will be treated worse than the chicken meat that is being eaten
You may be surprised to read this, but the real focus of this event has nothing to do with wings — that’s not what gets WIP listeners to stand out in the cold to wait in line at 4 AM. For these bros it’s all about the Wingettes, the women WIP’s stellar examples of chivalry choose to walk around scantily-clad while cheering on and escorting the eaters, and riling up the hammered crowd. Some of the women working at the event genuinely want to be there — because they’re paid to be. Most Wingettes are strippers who wear outfits blazoned with ads for their gentleman club employers.
Other women who are attending are, according to accounts, often heckled by the men in the stands and are then told to flash the crowd or make out with each other. From Ronnie Polaneczky, a Daily News columnist:
“It really wasn’t fun watching two young women – the only females in a seating section of about 100 – give in to male chants to rub their bare breasts against one another, only to look alarmed when beery spectators reached out for a grope.
And it wasn’t fun being slapped on my ass by a guy who said, “Lookin’ good, babe!” because it will never be fun to be in a place where simply being female implies consent.”
Cataldi, a former Philadelphia Inquirer sportswriter who was once a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, had a thoughtful and restrained response to this critique from Polaneczky. He called her “a bitch who needs an enema.”
And as Richard Rys in Philadelphia Magazine so astutely points out, many of Cataldi’s listeners made a point of calling the station to complain when ex-Baltimore Raven Ray Rice socked his fiance in the face. You all can argue about whether or not these two things are related.
Oh and to add to the general atmosphere of class at the event, a camera pans around the arena, looking for women. The crowd either chants and tells women to take their tops off, or they chant and tell her them they’re ugly and unworthy.
Some Wing Bowl faithful say this misogyny isn’t true. Take this dude, who responded to a recent Philly Mag article saying that (as a man), he “never felt this way while at the Wing Bowl.” Noted.
People will pay money to get messed up with their bros
Everyone is going to be straight hammered, because how else would you be able to stomach watching that much eating at 7 a.m.? The parking lots are going to open up at 4 a.m. and the spectators, still drunk from the night before, will flood the lots.
In fact, the do’s and don’ts of Wing Bowl (which remarkably don’t include “don’t be a douchebag,” “don’t touch a woman without consent,” “don’t choke on your own vomit”) actually tells people not to go into the parking lot without a ticket to the Wing Bowl … because they will be turned away.
People get so drunk at this event that spectators sitting in the lower bowl are actually encouraged to wear ponchos because of the amount of garbage, food, beer and vomit that sprays down from above.
And yes, this has been going on for quite a while
Twenty three years to be exact! The Wing Bowl was started in 1993 as a competition between just two contestants that took place in a hotel ballroom. Last year, nearly 30 contestants took part in the wing-eating competition in front of 20,000 people. I guess you could say it’s grown.
Lots of famous people have been to the Wing Bowl, including Senator Arlen Specter, former governor of Pennsylvania Ed Rendell, former Phillies manager Larry Bowa, retired heavyweight boxer Randall “Tex” Cobb and Eagles head coach Chip Kelly.
There used to be this guy called ‘El Wingador’
Bill “El Wingador” Simmons is the single winningest eater of the Wing Bowl, and had a reign of wing-eating terror from 1999-2005 where he won almost every Wing Bowl in the time span. He apparently used to get ready to eat all that stuff by chewing on frozen tootsie rolls for days before the event. Mmmmm.
Other winners of the Wing Bowl include famous eaters like Joey Chestnut and Takeru Kobayashi.
People are starting to get kinda mad about this
Maybe the Wing Bowl changed over the years, maybe political correctness has taken hold or maybe people are just starting to realize that this kind of thing is a little indecent. It’s probably a combination of the three, but over the last several years there have been calls for the Wing Bowl to tone it down.
If you think this type of thing sounds fun, here’s how you can attend
There are still tickets available on StubHub. Please report back and let me know how much fun you had throwing up on yourself.