It’s a simple rule: You heave, you leave.
But that didn’t help the stomach of Douglas “Obi Wing” Perok fight off nearly 100 chicken wings.
The poultry prevailed.
And while Obi Wing did a nice job capturing his vomit in his right palm — to the delight of the shameless crowd that packed the Wachovia Center before 6 a.m. Friday — this wasn’t the type of competition that rewards one-handed grabs.
“Your body says stop, but your spirit cries never more,” Obi Wing said.
During his interview, this Beckham of bird-eating repeatedly turned to flirt with, grab, carry and serenade female passersby — “Pretty Woman” was his song of choice.
“It’s like in the heat of the fight, it’s the passion that kills. The victory is yours alone,” Obi Wing added. “Perhaps not today. But there was a moral victory.”
That was as close as the annual, debauched festival got to morality. This was Wing Bowl 18, after all, an event where “The Projectile Vomit of 2001” is more renowned than the War of 1812, and where even Joey Chestnut, the world’s top competitive eater, was ejected (twice!) for “alcohol-related issues.”
Reigning champion Jonathan “Super” Squibb inhaled 238 wings over 30 minutes to easily defend his title.
Jersey Shore’s Snooki, the Bowl’s “celebrity” headliner, received a quintessential Philadelphia welcome: raucous boos befitting of Santa Claus, interrupted only for a few chants of “Show your tits!”
Snooki declined, but plenty of others — from the 128 bikini-clad Wingettes hailing from the city’s finest gentleman’s clubs, to Average Janes clamoring for attention in the upper level — were happy to oblige.
It’s a creepy cameraman’s paradise. The one day a year where Jumbotron close-ups of breasts and nether-regions are permissible — nay, required.
Yet it wasn’t all fun and games. While fans chugged Natty Ice and urinated on U-Hauls in the parking lot, the 29 contestants had to supervise the finishing touches on their pregame floats.
A record number collapsed. Those that made it to the floor ranged from the touching (tributes to Harry Kalas and Jim Johnson) to the, well, touching (“The Shocker”).
There was John “Oink Oink” Bradley, who crafted a pig pen large enough for a mud-wrestling match between two bodacious young women. There was a mock funeral procession, with a coffin designed for Donovan McNabb and an oversized casket for Andy Reid.
Even Susan Finkelstein — of “sex-for-tix” fame — made a cameo. And the entrance of John “Stormin’ Norman” Tiska, who qualified by eating five pizza pies in 10 minutes, featured a golf club-wielding Wingette chasing a cardboard Escalade.
At 8:04, it was time to dig in.
The field quickly dwindled to 28 when Adam Taxin, a.k.a “The Hungry, Hungry Hebrew,” didn’t eat a single wing. Wearing a black hat and a Sandy Koufax jersey, Taxin opted to nosh on a bagel with cream cheese.
By halftime, it was clear that Squibb would not be beaten. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound accountant from Berlin, N.J., had devoured 126 wings in the 14-minute opening round, creating a sizable lead and putting him within reach of Chestnut’s all-time mark of 241.
“End of the first round — that’s when I knew,” Squibb said. “I was so far ahead, I knew I was going to go as far as I could.”
Indeed, the commentators from WIP 610, the sponsor of Wing Bowl, decried his audacity. If he puked, he would lose everything — his breakfast (oatmeal, downed circa 3 a.m.), his crown and the Ford F150 that he had all but secured.
But at an event that embodies the seven deadly sins, pride lurks dangerously in the wings. And Squibb, who got his start in competitive eating after a bet with a friend, was on the precipice of history.
With 20 seconds remaining, Squibb needed 10 wings to tie Chestnut’s record. (Rules stipulate that after the final buzzer, eaters may swallow what’s already in their mouths.)
He cleared his palette, then ate feverishly, raising his hands above his head when the clock struck zero.
But upon further review, he had managed only seven in that final blitz, 238 overall, to fall just shy of Philly eating lore.
“I can feel the stuff,” he said, “but I’m not at capacity. We’re gonna go party, celebrate.”
And then — no joke — he was going to have Buffalo wings for lunch.
That’s what Wing Bowl is all about.
“Listen, this is for all those people driving down the roads in their coffins every day, to show them that the human spirit is still alive,” said Obi Wing, who five years ago qualified for his first Wing Bowl by eating eight hissing cockroaches.
“Some people shoot for it, some people snort for it, when all you got to do is jump or all you got to do is eat. Oh yeah, man.”
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