Today, while most Philadephians sleep, an indecorous horde of lunatics will congregate at the Wells Fargo Center for the annual spectacle known as Wing Bowl, which always occurs on the Friday before the Super Bowl.
To those unfamiliar, Wing Bowl is a competitive eating event similar to the hot dog eating competition held every year at Coney Island. Every year there is a ton of buildup to the event on WIP, the local sports radio station in Philly. Contestants qualify each year by coming into the studio for a wing off where they have to eat x amount of food under a certain time limit. This year, a guy named Joel the Cannon ate a 1 1/2 pound pumpkin pie in 2 minutes to qualify.
To put it succinctly, Wing Bowl is basically Jersey Shore meets Mardi Gras meets pro wrestling. The actual eating competition is an afterthought. I had heard about all the sordid happenings at Wing Bowl, so I never felt inclined to go. Me and my friend, Paco Sampedro, mulled it over one night, and on a lark, decided we should do it. Sometimes I want to see the worst America has to offer. It’s the John Waters in me.
Four years ago today, we arrived around 4 a.m. to the parking lot with wings (Dienner’s Bar-B-Q at the Reading Terminal Market) and a case of beer. The parking lot was already overflowing with riff raff. It was cold and dark and I think it was snowing. After rifling back some cold ones, we made our way into Wing Bowl 15. I was very disoriented and disgusted already. There’s no reasonable excuse for attending Wing Bowl.
The event started almost as soon as we arrived. It was only six a.m., and there were about 10,000 wasted people in the stands–the worst elements of the Flyers and Eagles fan base. The participants were announced over the PA and, in pro wrestling fashion, would file in slowly with their entourage while the crowd taunted and poured beer on them. Our favorite character was Obi Wing. I guess it’s because we couldn’t peg his character. He was alternately confused, happy, sad, angry at any given moment. I guess, he had a caveman thing going on. I kind of want to hang out with that guy.
If I remember correctly he was DQed for vomiting. He was first to vomit last year, too. Pro eater, Joey Chestnut, ended up winning the whole event, eating somewhere around 160 wings in a 1/2 hour.
The remainder of the day was a haze. My friends and I went our separate ways around two, I think. I somehow managed to go bowling later that afternoon.
This is a cautionary tale for anyone considering on going. If you’re in a relationship with someone, expect some fallout with him/her and plan on having at least a week of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. That night I did some crying in the shower and then my girlfriend covered me in blankets while I laid on the floor. I learned the next day that my friend Paco Sampedro had vomited while out at a fancy dinner with his girlfriend. Our friend Ally who went with us also vomited later that night. Paco and I vowed never to go back. Regrettably, I ended up going the next year, but haven’t been back since.