Wednesday, December 8, 2010

It's a Wing Bowl, Folks

By: C.G. Morelli

The Philadelphia Eagles have come a long way in the past decade. Over these last ten years, the Birds have made seven playoff appearances including four NFC Championship berths, four division titles, and a Super Bowl. They’ve finished under .500 only two times in that span.

But that hasn’t always been the case. In fact, before the Andy Reid era the Eagles were perennial doormats in the NFC East and any shot at the Super Bowl seemed nothing more than a pipe dream to Philadelphia fans. I must say that growing up in the City of Brotherly Love was more than a bit depressing on Super Bowl weekend because there was never anything to play for.

That is until 1993, when a few enterprising individuals gave birth to their brainchild. The idea: Wing Bowl, a buffalo wing eating competition pitting the city’s flabbiest, yet most talented, eaters against each other. The Bowl, which started as a simple promotional event for a local radio station, has gradually become a national draw over the years.

Taking place the Friday before the Super Bowl, grown men with freshly hatched pseudonyms like Bill “El Wingador” Simmons, Kevin “Heavy Kevvy” O’Donell, Carmen “The Beast from the East” Cordero, and Glen “Fluffmaster” Garrison climb into outrageous outfits oftentimes consisting of tights and a cape, and proceed to gorge themselves with more wings than you and I could eat in the course of an entire year.

It has become a bit of a tradition for each contestant to come fully loaded with their own posse of outcasts to spur on their feeding frenzies. The motley groups at times consist of bikini clad cheerleaders affectionately dubbed “Wingettes,” or other oddball, comic book-like characters created in the warped, but entertaining, minds of the contestants.

For much of the life of the contest, Wing Bowl has been dominated by one man, the illustrious soul known to all Philadelphians as El Wingador. Mr. Wingador has won the event five times and recorded a personal best by eating 205 wings. He actually used to train for the event by chewing frozen tootsie rolls in the “offseason” to strengthen his jaw muscles. That’s dedication, folks. It’s exactly what got him inducted into the Wing Bowl Hall of Fame in 2006. Really, I’m not kidding about this.

But the tides have changed in recent years and a new wing-eating legend has emerged. He is known simply as Joey Chestnut, and he’s hoisted the championship trophy at the last three competitions. Last year, Chestnut devoured a Wing Bowl record 241 wings, besting his next closest competition by 14 wings.

Sounds slightly insane, doesn’t it? But don’t be so quick to judge. The obvious damage inflicted on Chestnut’s insides actually brought him some pretty sweet prizes. In the last competition, he tallied up nearly $40,000 in booty, including a brand new Harley Davidson, a new Toyota Tundra, and a diamond-encrusted gold ring. Not bad for a guy who’s claim to fame is 90 minutes worth of speed-chewing followed by two hours of agony in the john.

At any rate, Philadelphia’s Wing Bowl has become a perfect backdrop against the media hoopla of Super Bowl weekend, and it has given Birds fans something to cheer about even in those years when our team has been nothing more than an afterthought.

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