Scenes from Wing Bowl 2010, Philly's Competitive Wing-Eating Contest

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"Jersey Shore's Snooki was supposed to be a big element of this year's Wing Bowl but was loudly booed the instant she appeared on stage."


[Photographs: Hawk Krall]

Every year on the Friday before the Super Bowl, 20,000 drunks converge on South Philadelphia at 6 a.m. for the Wing Bowl, a competitive eating competition gone berserk, which can conservatively be described as pro-wrestling meets Mardi Gras. With chicken wings, adult film stars and, this year, Jersey Shore's Snooki riding a mechanical bull.

Wing Bowl was created by WIP sports radio's morning show host Al Morganti in 1993 as a small event in a hotel but has quickly became one of the biggest and most insane competitive eating competitions in the country.

Competitors qualify throughout the year by performing various eating stunts live on the air. This year, South Philly's own 475-pound Big Bambino qualified by eating 2.5 pounds of fettucine alfredo in four minutes. The Hungry Hebrew did 30 latkes in 5 minutes, and Hank the Tank ate the entire contents of WIP's vending machine.


Past Wing Bowl Winners

Originally a competition between amateur locals, WIP hired professional eaters in 2004. This created a huge upset when the 99-pound Sonya "the Black Widow" Thomas, also known for breaking records at the Nathan's 4th of July Hot Dog Eating Contest, won the competition. Philly fans were not pleased to give the title up to an outsider, but reclaimed the crown when local eater El Wingador beat Thomas by one wing in 2005.

From 2006 to 2008 Joey Chestnut held the title, until last year when WIP took the competition back to its roots with all amateur, local competitors. You might think the lack of celebrity eaters would hurt the Wing Bowl buzz, but the fans still love it.


This Year's Craziness

The procession starts at 6 a.m. with the eaters circling the arena in elaborately themed floats, surrounded by an entourage of scantily clad "Wingettes" (mostly dancers from local gentleman's clubs) who gyrate and grind against the glass that separates them from thousands of drunk maniacs screaming and hurling half-full beers and trash at competitors they're rooting against.

Entourage themes range from memorials for recently deceased Philly sports icons Harry Kalas, Tom Brookshier, and Jim Johnson to girls in hamburger skirts, and at least 25 people in chicken costumes.

Wildcard eater Obi-Wing came out rolling across the cement with the Phillies logo painted on his back, battling aluminum foil-covered enemies with a homemade cardboard lightsaber. Oink Oink's float was a miniature wrestling ring containing two scantily clad ladies in pig masks mud wrestling. And let's not forget the Philly Shore entourage of guys dressed up like the Situation and a transvestite Snooki, claiming that "the real Guidos are from Philly."

As you might have figured by now the actual wing-eating contest is only one element of the wonder that is Wing Bowl. The parking lot at 3 a.m. was like being outside an Iron Maiden concert in 1983 except with shorter hair and more Phillies hats. I saw a U-Haul full of couches and kegs with guys jumping off the truck onto folding tables ECW-style.


Jersey Shore's Snooki was supposed to be a big element of this year's Wing Bowl, but was loudly booed the instant she appeared on stage (then was quickly whisked away). They tried again at halftime, putting her on the mechanical bull, but the crowd responded with more booing and hurling half-eaten buckets of "crab fries" toward her.

Snooki was quickly replaced with two Wingettes who were met with loud cheers. A pretty rough example of Philadelphia's fierce local pride. Regardless of how you feel about Snooki and the show, being booed by 20,000 people is pretty harsh. Although she replied by giving the entire city the finger live on a local Fox morning news show, so I guess she'll get over it.


So back to the eating. Last year's unknown surprise winner, Jonathan "Super Squibb" quickly rose to the top in the first round eating 126 wings. By the last round (there are three) he left everyone else in the dust eating 238 wings, almost 100 wings ahead of the runner-up Not Rich, and only three short of Joey Chestnut's world record.

Rumor has it, next year might feature a showdown between the two. And definitely more beer, wingettes, ridiculous costumes and flying debris.