Before the ‘Wing Bowl’ became the south-Philadelphia spectacle it has become, they used to hold the event at the Electric Factory. Just before the event got big enough to warrant a move to the Broad Street Sports complex, ‘Wing Bowl’ was packed into the popular arena every Friday before the Super Bowl. I have been to a handful of ‘Wing Bowls’, but the one that sticks out the most to me was the one I went to at the Electric Factory. I was in first grade and my dad, who I would attend with every instance I went, decided to take my younger brother and older sister out of school and into the city.
In the mid-1990s, the contest had not yet drawn the attention of professional eaters and athlete competitors. Instead, the combatants were normally south-Philly natives who looked all the part of someone packing about a month of obesity into a half hour. When I was muscled into the competition, I remember the overwhelming stimulating nature of such a scene at that time in the morning. People were chanting nicknames that I did not know and cheering for God knows what. At around six or seven years old, I don’t think I had even tried a chicken wing yet and had not become the Philadelphia sports fan that I am today.
What was great about it was that it belonged to my family and, on a larger scale, the city of Philadelphia. I went to the event a few more times, including instances where it was held in the currently-named Wells Fargo Center. While it was always a great time, despite the fact that I have yet to return since I’ve reached the age of 21, there was nothing like the feeling of my first Wing Bowl. Learning all of the lore that goes into the SportsRadio WIP-sponsored event was just as entertaining as any of the area sports teams were to me in my youth.
In terms of the city, ‘Wing Bowl’ has become national news every year before the Super Bowl. As we all have to sit around for the rest of the year, listening to national pundits and analysts regurgitate the same fodder about Philadelphia, the ‘Wing Bowl’ always provides relief from the same old stories about our city. If people make fun of the ‘Wing Bowl’, it is serving its purpose. The contest is as ‘Philadelphia’ an event as one can draw up and those critics of it often come off as haters of fun. There is no exclusivity to the event, it has become an international affair, and the alacrity surrounding the competition reaches new highs every year.
Especially in recent years, the availability of athletes in the area has involved sports icons from: the Eagles, Flyers, 76ers, and Phllies in ‘Wing Bowl’. Chip Kelly was unofficially christened by the city in his appearance last year and members of the area teams are playing bigger roles every year it seems. With professional championships eluding the area teams for the better part of Wing Bowl’s existence, it has become the party event of every year in Philadelphia. Should the Eagles make a Super Bowl in the near future, Wing Bowl will prove to be the best possible hype event any fanbase in the country could ask for. If and when this does happen, I will do everything in my power to attend. Until then, I will have to enjoy from afar as each ‘Wing Bowl’ manages to one-up the one prior.
Area athletes played a key role in this year’s ‘Wing Bowl’. Among the normal entries to this week’s ‘Four-for-Four’, we will be looking at each team and how they managed to make this year’s ‘Wing Bowl’ that much better.