“Bowled Over” With Disgust

February 2, 2009

This is kind of “off the mark” regarding stuff I usually post about, but I felt I had to point this out.

In this area (and I’m talking about Philly Metro, Bucks and part of south/central Jersey, for our purposes), there is an event that takes place here at around the time of the Super Bowl (end of January, early February) called “Wing Bowl,” which, as this Reuters news story tells you (and the above pic indicates) is…

…a competitive-eating extravaganza in which 27 men try to eat the largest number of chicken wings in 30 minutes.

They are assisted by legions of bikini-clad young women called “Wingettes”, and encouraged by a baying crowd which stayed up most of the night to take part in the spectacle.

Jonathon Squibb, a 23-year-old computer technician from Berlin, New Jersey, won the event and a $30,000 Mini Cooper after eating 203 wings without getting sick.

Squibb, who was unknown in competitive eating circles, beat better-known participants including the favorite, “Damaging Doug” Canavin of Philadelphia.

The Wing Bowl, timed to air live on the morning show of the WIP sports talk radio station that sponsors it, has become a major event in Philadelphia on the Friday before the Super Bowl. It was started in 1993 as a consolation for fans of the Philadelphia Eagles football team which usually fail, as they did this year, to qualify for the national championship.

Of course, that logic went awry in 2005 when the Eagles actually made it to the Super Bowl, only to lose to the New England Patriots.

And I’m going to turn into a “moral scold” here, I should warn you, but I can’t help it; I’ve been watching this mess play out this time every year since it started and kept quiet about it, but no longer (Brendan Calling has already beaten me to it, I see, and Dan Rubin; good for them, but I’m only too glad to add to the contrarian chorus).

To begin, this is a celebration of sheer gluttony, as the Reuters headline plainly tells us. And I don’t know about you, but I was always taught that gluttony is a sin.

Also, does anybody have any idea where the money goes for this? Does it all end up in the pockets of WIP or Comcast-Spectacor (which hosts it)? I’ve read about three articles on this, and if that information is spelled out anywhere, then I guess I missed it.

Well, if no one else benefits from this (I don’t know what kind of a comment it is that they charge admission for this, and people actually buy tickets – !!), I would like to point out the following from this news story (dated last September)…

Philabundance, the area’s largest hunger-relief agency, will soon cut off milk to 18 after-school and day-care agencies serving 1,045 children.

In many cases, it is the only milk the children ever drink.
Philabundance blames the tough economy and a drop in food donations of as much as 20 percent over the last year for the cutoff, which is expected to save the nonprofit $200,000 annually.

“I was shocked to hear this,” said Leola Highsmith, director of Grace Community Christian Center’s after-school program in Germantown. “I didn’t know it was happening, and it will be a hardship. My children depend on that milk. It means I’ll have to pay for milk myself or ask for donations.”

The end of the program comes at a time when Philabundance is trying to pay off $2 million it spent on a South Philadelphia building last October to add to its warehouse space.

To say that this is a time of need is an understatement. Maybe the ringleaders of this fiasco (WIP radio personalities Angelo Cataldi and Al Morganti, who claim to have stumbled onto this successful “franchise” by accident, though they are in fact first-rate hucksters who know exactly what they’re doing) could see to it that some kids in true need in this area get a “hand up” from an event in which the participants end up victorious by gorging themselves without throwing up.

Update 2/8/09: I was able to learn from this article that some Wing Bowl proceeds do go to charity, as it turns out…

Specifically, Philadelphia police, who had a bad 2008 with four officers killed in the line of duty.

“We wanted to really help out the police department, and we gave a substantial amount of money, in five figures, to the police survivor’s funds,” (Marc Rayfield, vice president and general manager of 610WIP) said.

Additionally, Wing Bowl proceeds are used to give $1,000 scholarships to selected students at area schools, who possess both academic and community spirit. Rayfield said the station gives away 10 to 15 of these scholarships, some to Bucks County schools such as Central Bucks East and West.

I still think Wing Bowl is pointless gluttony, but I have to give Morganti credit for giving back a bit here.

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