January 28, 2015
Where will you be at 5 a.m. on Friday morning? Sleeping? Getting ready for work? Taking your dog out for a walk in sub-freezing temperatures?
Not if your one of the close to 20,000 people who will attend the annual display of gluttony known as SportsRadio 94 WIP’s Wing Bowl, celebrating it’s 23rd year this Friday at the Wells Fargo Center. Come 5 a.m., those fans will begin making their way into the arena after hours of pre-dawn tailgating.
And according to the host of WIP’s morning show, Angelo Cataldi, fans in attendance this year are in for a treat.
“I think we’re outdoing ourselves a little this time around,” Cataldi told PhillyVoice. “We have this whole recurring theme thing that we’re putting together involving [New Jersey Governor] Chris Christie. We have decided to respond to his behavior of rooting for the Cowboys. We have some video that we’re going to show that’s never been seen before of the Governor…We’re going to make fun of their Governor the way no one has before.”
The event, which began as a small eating competition in the lobby of a hotel, has morphed into something not even it’s founders, Cataldi and co-host Al Morganti, could have predicted. Over the years, it’s hosted some of the world’s greatest eaters, including Takero Kobayashi, Joey Chestnut and reigning champion Molly Schuyler, who wowed the crowd last year with a record-setting performance.
“Honestly, it’s not designed for everyone’s taste,” says Cataldi. “What bothers me is that the people that hate it, the way they hate it, don’t at least feel that people deserve to do it without them trying to stop it."
But there’s much more to Wing Bowl than the 30 minutes of actual eating.
As Cataldi puts it, “Every one has those moments where you go, ‘What the heck did I just see?’”
Like the time Snooki got pelted with debris from the crowd. Or the time Kobayashi not only won the Wing Bowl, but also broke a cheesesteak eating World Record.
Sure, it’s a legitimate buffalo wing eating contest, but it’s all the goings on around the eating -- from the parade into the arena to the hundreds of “Wingettes” that help clear the contestants’ plates -- that make Wing Bowl so unique. This year, for example, former professional wrestler Mick Foley will not only be in attendance, but he’ll be in the competition, trying to out-eat some of the best around.
“His entrance is going to be off the charts fantastic,” says Cataldi, who would only tell us that it includes a giant wrestling ring.
He likely doesn’t stand a chance at actually winning, however, consider Schuyler has only lost once in her entire pro eating career, and according to Cataldi is actually making it difficult to find competitors. She’s so good, no one wants to compete against her.
“Molly Schulyer…is making it harder to hold an event because she did so spectacularly last year with, I think it was 367 wings in 30 minutes, that even the great eaters don’t think they can compete with her,” he says. “Every year we’d love to have a situation where no one knows who the winner’s going to be, and with the prizes totally close to $150,000, we had to break it up into categories so that it would be more fair.”
Those three categories are Professional, Local, and College. And while Cataldi sees the first two being close, he predicts Schulyer in a blowout despite all attempts to level the field.
They brought in a mystery eater to try to dethrone Schuyler and extended an invite to past champion Kobayashi, who declined after hearing Schuyler was competing.
Even if the outcome seems all but assured, Cataldi thinks it has the potential to go down as one of the best ever. And that’s because Wing Bowl isn’t just about the eating. Sure, it's a circus, but it's also for a good cause, with much of the proceeds going to various charities.
This year, for the first time, WIP will give some of the money to the Mummers, another uniquely Philly tradition that has come under fire in recent years.
"This year, I know we're going to help out the Mummers, because the Mummers have had a rough time of it," says Cataldi. "And over the years, they've taken their own flack for being a Philadelphia tradition. So we kind of feel a kinship to them, so we're going to throw some money their way as well.
It also isn’t for everyone, considering many of the main sponsors are local gentlemen’s clubs.
And that’s just fine with its host. He understands why those who criticize the event for its gluttonous and often sexual nature.
“Honestly, it’s not designed for everyone’s taste,” says Cataldi. “I fully understand the criticism of it. They have every right to feel that way about it. What bothers me is that the people that hate it, the way they hate it, don’t at least feel that people deserve to do it without them trying to stop it. There’s nothing going on that requires people to be so upset. It’s just a bunch of guys. We’re not politically correct that day, fully understood. The stuff that goes on in there is on the edge of good taste, if not slightly over it. But we’re not breaking any laws. We’re doing everything we can to keep it all on the up-and-up. And it’s good, fairly clean fun. And these people, to me, are the fun police.
“I agree with their objections. They’re right. Women are being objectified in that event. Gluttony is being celebrated. They’re right about their criticisms, but that doesn’t mean the event should go away. That means they should go away. If they don’t want to be a part of it, they should turn around, find something they enjoy more than that, but why stop all these other people from having fun?”
You know, fun like drinking beer, listening to live music, and looking at scantily-clad women, while mocking Christie and the Cowboys.
So I’ll ask again: Where will you be early Friday morning?Here’s a look at the overall odds for the eating competition, according to WIP’s Al Morganti. The eaters are grouped into their three tiers, but the odds reflect their chances to win the entire competition, not just their respective category.
Molly Schuyler 2-1
Mick Foley 10-1
Unknon Eater 4-1
Tim Brown 9-1
Patrick Bertoletti 5-1
Joe “Gentleman Joe” Menchetti 12-1
Henry “Nacho Extreme” Lann 40-1
David "Tiger Wings & Things" Brunelli 5-1
Gerry "Iceman" Spearing 75-1
Al "Love Handles" Marnoch 75-1
Matt "Santa Dog" Yeackel 25-1
Dan "Demo Dan" Brechbiel 20-1
Kevin "Qwazy" Ambs 12-1
Steve "The Animal Cannibal" Inglese 40-1
Rich "CheesecakeBeefcake" Souders 35-1
Dimitry "Ukraine Train" Schupak 15-1
Matt "Matt & Cheese" Yavoich 45-1
Bob "The Notorious B.O.B." Shoudt 6-1
Keith "South Jersey Keith" Carman 50-1
Frank "The Animal" Bialowas 100-1
Breandan "Skin & Bones" Lyman 10-1
Gary "Egghead" Russell 8-1
Monty "Moe Train" Wiradilaga 20-1
Sean "El Clownador" Gordon 10-1
Vincent "Big Fat Hoss" Garman 65-1
Chad "Meat Fridge" Cerino 50-1
Chris-Chen "Big Z" Zhou 25-1
Kevin "Brutus" Bruton 19-1
Brian "Ginger Wings" Lafferty 25-1
Dan "Stormin Norman" Davis 25-1