Back in good old Europe, I grew up watching American TV. Little did I know, though, that most of what I saw on the screen in movies such as “American Pie” was based on glorified stereotypes.
That all changed Friday when I attended Philadelphia’s Wing Bowl 21, an annual competition where about 25 true American heroes devour buffalo wings while scantily clad women go around showcasing their “natural” assets — much to the enjoyment of the spectators.
“[It’s] the biggest, most insane competitive eating event in the world,” winner Jamie “The Bear” McDonald said to SportsRadio 94 WIP after the event.
That sentence pretty much sums it up. And while I had been warned beforehand — when I woke up at 3:45 a.m. — I knew little about what to expect.
In France, having to wake up that early for pretty much anything would bring out thousands of angry protesters in the streets. Here, it’s pretty much the same, except that instead of a demonstration, I had the joy of seeing thousands of fans tailgating outside the Wells Fargo Center.
After getting my press pass and entering the arena, I witnessed the rowdy spectacle that is the Wing Bowl’s pregame show. Each competitor, accompanied by his “entourage” — that is, mostly nightlife entertainers — first paraded around the floor while thousands of unbridled onlookers made sure to loudly cheer on every Philadelphian and boo the others.
It was during this particular moment that I discovered something U.S. fans thoroughly lack. While they do fuel inter-city rivalries, the result does not compare to how Europeans do it. No fire started, no bottles or firecrackers thrown and very few arrests, at least comparatively — come on Philly fans, I know you can do better.
But on the other hand, I have to admire the patriotism. After the end of the Star-Spangled Banner — when the stands erupted into chants of “USA, USA!” — I immediately knew what was at stake in Wing Bowl 21: true Americanism.
Funneling overpriced beers before sunrise, pressuring women to flash their breasts on the Jumbotron, watching 200-pound men engulf wing after wing — that’s exactly what I had in mind when I crossed the Atlantic for the first time four years ago.
“There are asses here … it’s out of control,” an onlooker said.
And this fine gentleman was absolutely right. In a country where Janet Jackson’s boob was the No. 1 topic for an entire year and led to widespread TV censorship measures, it was nice to see for once that the U.S. is, in fact, all about sex.
The funniest part for me, though, was probably when a young lady, who turned 21 the day of the event, was shown on the big screen drinking what WIP announcer Angelo Cataldi enthusiastically called “her first beer”.
Yeah, right. That was totally her first drop of alcohol — ever. Sadly for all 20,000 men in the stadium, though, it didn’t make her do anything crazy.
But luckily for me, I did get to enjoy a spectacle of pure American debauchery, which reminded me of why I came to study here in the first place.
And when, 287 wings later, “The Bear” was finally proclaimed the winner, I couldn’t be more proud of my decision.
KARL BAGHERZADEH is a sophomore international studies and business major from Paris, France and is a sports editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at bagherzadeh@theDP.com.