Earlier than even the average Philadelphian deems it socially acceptable to drink a Lager, on Feb. 3 at 6 a.m., a gargantuan mass of eager Wing Bowl spectators will pack into the Wachovia Center to see which of the 25 wing-eating contestants can eat the most wings in three eating rounds.
But, this year, Wing Bowl 14 will be a little bit different. Since its creation 13 years ago, two major things have been changed. The rules have changed and for the first time, tickets will be sold for the event.
So here’s a tip to Wing Bowl regulars: Don’t waste time painting your chests to root for Bill “El Wingador” Williams or Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas, because these past champion Wing Bowl contestants won’t be there.
Contestants who have competed in prior Wing Bowls are not eligible to participate in Wing Bowl 14, according to section B of this year’s Wing Bowl eligibility requirements. Sports Talk Radio has chosen to name this year’s wing-eating event the “Virgin Wing Bowl,” as only first-timers are allowed to compete.
Temple alumnus Greg Boyle, of West Chester, has participated in six of the 13 bowls, including Wing Bowl 12 when 99-pound Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas set the record with 167 wings for the most wings ever eaten in a Wing Bowl.
“I think it’s a good idea,” Boyle said of the virgin bowl.
“A lot of those guys show up almost every year.”
Some regular Wing Bowl attendees may be unable to attend the event this year due to a change in ticket distribution. The past 13 Wing Bowls have offered free admission, but this year’s tickets were sold ahead of time for $5 each. For many, it will be the first Wing Bowl they’ve missed in years. Twenty-three-year-old Temple senior Marie Patterson is upset that she couldn’t get tickets.
“It’s always been my favorite event of the year,” Patterson said. “But this year I didn’t know I had to buy tickets so I’m out of luck.”
Other Wing Bowl fans are questioning the authenticity of the event. Will the same pre-dawn, parking-lot debauchery continue?
“Usually we show up at like four in the morning, and by then it’s a pretty rowdy and intoxicated crowd,” Boyle said. “I don’t know if the tickets being sold will affect the tailgating since it’s always been a first come, first in event. The parking lots usually resemble something out of Mad Max, with bottles everywhere, and bonfires.”
The Wing Bowl hasn’t always been such a popular event. The first Wing Bowl hardly attracted a crowd of viewers, let alone tailgaters to a parking lot party, according to Sports Talk Radio. The first Wing Bowl was on Jan. 29, 1993, in the lobby of the Center City Wyndham Franklin Plaza Hotel.
The winner, Carmen “The Beast from the East” Cordero pounded down 100 wings, beating his only opponent in front of a mere 25 viewers.
Since then the Wing Bowl has exploded to include food lovers willing to eat just about anything. People can qualify by accomplishing great food-eating tasks while on-air on Sportstalk radio. If they set up a time to eat 10 bananas in 90 seconds, according to the station they might just qualify.
College students interested in participating in the Wing Bowl will have a chance to eat their way into snagging one of the 25 spaces.
Jillian Bauer can be reached at email@example.com.