PHILADELPHIA — The last time the Eagles went to the Super Bowl, someone threw a bottle through my friend’s windshield as he pulled into the parking lot for Wing Bowl. When he got out to inspect the damage, something worse happened: He and his passengers were accused of being Patriots fans.
So I went into this year’s Wing Bowl with trepidation. The Wing Bowl before Super Bowl 39 was scary: People were extra rude and aggro and spent what seemed like hours banging on the doors to get in. I’m sure my friend’s windshield wasn’t the only one broken that morning.
Wing Bowl is the one day a year every stereotype about Philadelphia sports fans is true. It’s a Philly sporting event with no sports. It’s basically all downtime. The crowd is a weird mix of college kids and oldheads. All people do is drink, chant and get rowdy. “This is an excuse to do whatever you want,” WIP’s Marc Farzetta said.
Hosted by Angelo Cataldi and WIP’s morning show since 1993, the contest was conceived a way to celebrate (or mock) the inability of the Eagles to even get to the Super Bowl (and the Buffalo Bills’ inability to win one). With the Eagles in the big game again, I figured this one would be wild. I was wrong.
This year was tame by comparison. It was tame for any Philadelphia gathering, even. In 2005 WIP began requiring tickets to attend, so people don’t have to show up at 3 a.m. anymore to get in line. This year, some people didn’t show up at all. When competitors began their processions into the arena it wasn’t even half-full, and portions remained empty throughout. Maybe everyone took off Monday instead.
In earlier years of the contest the camera used to go around encouraging women to flash their breasts on the jumbotron. That doesn’t really happen anymore; there were only one or two bra-flashes this year. Things are just much more orderly in general. Perhaps 94 WIP’s new owner, Entercom, is trying to class up Wing Bowl. Media wasn’t even allowed backstage this year! (Which makes sense: If a reporter leaked Butch From Manayunk’s float beforehand, the sanctity of the contest would be ruined.) And there wasn’t even a brawl!
And the wingettes, the women (some of them professional strippers) who cheer on competitors and titillate the crowd? There weren’t even that many this time. Only two strip clubs were represented. Some wingettes had to march in multiple eaters’ entourages. Repeat wingettes? Is nothing sacred?
“This is the most clothes I’ve seen on strippers ever,” Philadelphia paparazzo HughE Dillon said to me about halfway through the contest. “Way back when it was much more fun. It’s a bummer.”
Not that a toned-down Wing Bowl was that much different. There were scantily clad women, just not as many. The crowd was disgusting as usual; one man held up an “I EAT ASS” sign with a phone number for much of the morning. Music was provided by Counterfeit—a Limp Bizkit cover band. It was pretty on-brand, even if it was a bit tamer.
But it was a new day: This year’s Wingette of the Year, Katie Pasternak, has a liberal presence on social media and recently complained about Eagles players tipping like shit.
Obviously, there was a heavy Super Bowl pep rally feel to this year’s Wing Bowl. Nyseem Porter—the shirtless man in an eagle mask who went viral on social media after the NFC title game—was in attendance. (He’s a senior at Prep Charter High School, and hopefully this was an excused absence.) Jigar Desai, the Eagles fan who ran into a pole, was there too. People did “E-A-G-L-E-S” and “Fuck Tom Brady” chants.
The wing-eating portion of the contest was as good as ever, though—if “good” is an adjective that can be applied to a disgusting wing-eating contest. Molly Schuyler, a professional competitive eater, won the contest for the third time by eating 501 wings in a half hour. She said beforehand her goal was to eat 500 wings, and—as tends to conveniently happen at most Wing Bowls—the storyline was carried to fruition.
My favorite eater this year was a newcomer, Nadia White, the only other woman in the competition. A Philadelphian with a Harley Quinn look, White entered the contest on the encouragement of a friend of hers, former Wing Bowl contestant Tim “Gravy” Brown. She did well enough in the first round to advance to the final 10 eaters, but slowed down.
“I was hoping to get to the second round, but I didn’t realize how quickly I’d hit my wall,” White. “But I had to keep going, I didn’t want to get disqualified.”
White is an adult actress. Sex workers are now not just wingettes, they’re competitors—and good competitors, too! She said she’s only been doing eating challenges for three months, and would be back stronger next year. That’s the spirit.
Another eater I enjoyed was Moe Train, a five-time Wing Bowl contestant from Kennett Square who goes by Monty Wiradilaga in his day-to-day life. He finished fifth with 250 wings. He entered the arena on a cardboard rocket reading “Nuke New England.” I caught up with him almost immediately afterward.
“I feel absolutely horrible,” he said. “That’s a lot of chicken… I mean, I ate 250 wings, that’s 12, 14 pounds. All that grease—I feel like crap.” He said he’d feel better in a few days—right about when the Eagles take the field Sunday.