It seems like every city has a tradition to get amped up and ready for the Super Bowl. But whether the Philadelphia Eagles make it to the Super Bowl or not, Philly has a tradition that trumps all of them. for the past 17 years competitive and amateur eaters alike have gathered on the Friday morning before the Super Bowl to see who can eat the most chicken wings. And it has brought elaborate entrances, drunken crowd antics, and lovely Wingettes along with it. And right before Super Bowl XLIV hits Miami, Wing Bowl is set to return for it’s 18th year on February 5th.
Wing Bowl is an annual eating contest founded in 1993 by Philadelphia talk-radio hosts Al Morganti and Angelo Cataldi as a celebration of gluttony. The contest was first broadcast on WIP (AM).
About 150 people attended Wing Bowl I (held in a hotel) in 1993 to see a competition between two contestants. The event pits competitive eaters in a chicken wing eating contest. The Wing Bowl is traditionally held on the Friday preceding the Super Bowl. The event, which began as a radio promotion, has grown to encompass television, the Internet, and a contest for women who are termed “the Wingettes.”
It is currently held at Philadelphia’s Wachovia Center, where it is still broadcast live on WIP. There are currently no television deals to broadcast the event live; however, a replay is usually shown on WPSG, Comcast SportsNet, or one of the other local stations within the following week. The Wing Bowl now draws crowds of 20,000 or more.
Wing Bowl was the brainchild of WIP radio host Al Morganti, who came up with the idea when it became apparent the Philadelphia Eagles were not going to make the Super Bowl anytime soon. It is also suggested that Morganti was fed up with the Buffalo Bills going to the Super Bowl and not winning. The first Wing Bowl was held in the lobby of the Wyndham Franklin Plaza Hotel in Center City. Carmen Codero walked away with the inaugural title, receiving a hibachi as his prize.
Since then, media coverage has grown to the point where every one of the major Philadelphia television stations has covered the event. The ABC, CBS and Fox affiliates all aired live reports from the event during their morning news. Features on the event have appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News as well as a host of newspapers in the surrounding counties. The event has been featured on ESPN and the syndicated television shows Real TV and The Montel Williams Show. Segments on Wing Bowl have appeared on TV newscasts in cities throughout the country. Several Wing Bowl contestants, including “El Wingador,” competed in Fox’s “Glutton Bowl” in the spring of 2002. The 2007 Wing Bowl was carried on Comcast Cable’s On Demand channel.
Former Philadelphia Mayor and current Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell attended Wing Bowls II, III, IV and VI, where he presented the winner with a “Liberty Bell” trophy. Other celebrities who have appeared include retired heavyweight boxer Randall “Tex” Cobb, former 76ers President Pat Croce, former Phillies manager Larry Bowa, U.S. Senator Arlen Specter, and others. Major-league umpire Eric Gregg served as the “Commissioner” of Wing Bowl from its second year until his death from a stroke on June 5, 2006. On December 4, 2006, it was announced that Pat Croce will be the new commissioner.
Wing Bowl has seen several decorated champions, as well as a few unexpected ones. Philadelphia native Bill “El Wingador” Simmons became the first man to win the Bowl four times, and the first to win it three times in a row. n 2004, the Wing Bowl was sanctioned by the International Federation of Competitive Eating (IFOCE). Angelo Cataldi, in an effort to boost the level of competition, brought in professional eaters from outside Philadelphia, including 99-pound Korean-American Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas from Virginia and Long Island realtor Ed “Cookie” Jarvis. That year, Thomas packed away 167 wings to defeat Jarvis and returning-champ Simmons (who finished with 151) to become the first woman to win the event, winning a new car for her victory. In 2005 she was bested by El Wingador by one chicken wing. Competitive Eater Joey Chestnut, who holds the record in Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest; went on to win The Wing Bowl in 2006, 2007, and 2008. With El Wingador and Chestnut both stepping down in 2009, a new champion was destined to emerge. and that man was Jonathan “Super Squib” Squibb, a native of Camden, New Jersey, who ate 203 wings.
At Wing Bowl 18 Super Squib is set to defend his title. To qualify for the event eaters show off what they can do on WIP Philadelphia, and it has already had some interesting results. Wing Bowl 15 Vet “The Bulldog” unsuccessfully attempts 2 large pork roll, egg and cheese stromboli`s but because of his valient efforts, he is welcomed back for the Studio Wing Off. The Wild Turkey gobbled up his eating stunt of 5 double cheeseburgers and 3lbs of mashed potatoes in just over 7 minutes to become the third contestant in Wing Bowl 18. On January 6th, Josiah will attempt to eat 6 Big Macs in 10 minutes.
To back track on previous Wing Bowl’s and learn more about what’s to come, check out the Wing Bowl page on Philly.com. And to keep track on contenders, see videos, and listen to podcasts, check out the main page on WIP