By the time we pulled into the Wells Fargo Center parking lot at 5 a.m., I was approximately seven shots deep.
Being selected as the designated drunk columnist for Wing Bowl 21 brought with it a set of guidelines and restrictions. I had to get as hammered at possible, in the wee hours of the morning, without appearing too intoxicated to do my job.
After receiving my press pass — which basically acted as a de facto master key, letting us wander anywhere — I snuck over to a tailgate party to steal a couple of beers from my friends before re-entering the building to take my spot.
If you’ve been to any other event at the Wells Fargo Center, it’s quite a shock to see what goes up on the big screen at Wing Bowl. The cameramen seem to do whatever they can to avoid making it family friendly, panning from scantily clad women, to drunk fans screaming at them to take off their clothes and then back to the women, who receive a shower of boos if they don’t oblige.
The art of peer pressure proved quite effective.
“These tits are the tits,” an onlooker said.
All of this happens as three tons of buffalo sauce-smeared eaters try to chew their way to $20,000, and I’m using the loosest possible definition of “chew.”
It represents almost everything that’s wrong with this country — and that’s what makes it so much fun.
It’s a spectacle, like the Super Bowl with more testosterone. The eaters parade around the floor on floats before the event with their own sets of “cheerleader” — read: stripper — groupies and their own odds to win, ranging from 3-2 to infinity-1 (seriously).
One competitor was even given 2-1 odds to vomit.
I stood in the press area in the middle of the floor, right in front of the contest. Directly behind me were enthusiastic fans with “VIP” tags, many of whom were there to cheer on their friends and family.
“He’s one of my best friends’ dads, and he’s got the wherewithal to win this,” Brendan Plunkett said of Gerry “Iceman” Spearing. “He’s a rookie, but he’s going to take it to the house.”
Spearing was quickly eliminated.
The parents of odds-on favorite Jonathan Squibb looked on nervously.
“I don’t want to jinx it,” Squibb’s mother, Charlene, said. He finished just behind winner James “The Bear” McDonald by five wings.
Although it was my first Wing Bowl, attendees agreed the crowd was more raucous this year, perhaps due to pent up frustration from the Eagles’ season.
“It seemed like everybody was a little more rowdy, a little more drunk,” eater and winner of the lower-tier local contest Dave “U.S. Male” Goldstein said.
“Drunk, fun, Philly culture,” College senior Steven Carter said.
It’s mind over matter near the end of the Wing Bowl. By 200 wings, most eaters start turning green, and the camera zooms in on their bloated faces as fans taunt them, begging them to vomit.
When one eater finally did throw up, the crowd erupted, and the cameras zoomed in on his puke-covered plate of wings. I tried my best to hold my liquor down while the competitor buried his head.
It’s not an event for the faint of heart, and it’s certainly not a place to bring your girlfriend. To say it’s mostly male is a gross understatement.
There is so much about the Wing Bowl that is just wrong. In a world of gender equality and anti-chauvinism, dieters and health nuts and a more profound desire to feed the hungry, it seems largely out of place. Although much of its proceeds go to charity, it blatantly celebrates misogyny and gluttony — and alcoholism.
As a less-than-sober individual myself, I couldn’t resist.
SPENCER SMALL is a senior science, technology and society major from Lancaster, Pa. He can be reached at dpsports@theDP.com.