As for Morganti and Cataldi, a trip to Jacksonville just wouldn't feel right. "The real story is back here in Philadelphia anyway," Morganti says. "The Wing Bowls of the last three years turned into an Irish wake. This is going to be the biggest pep rally in the history of sports."
The Wing Bowl, in its 13th incarnation this year, is a carnival of extreme eaters egged on by scantily dressed Wingettes, as well as entourages, assorted celebrities, and 20,000 or so people who start lining up for hours before the Wachovia Center doors open. The show runs from 6 to 10 a.m.
Morganti, the show's resident contrarian, devised Wing Bowl in 1993 because, he believed, the Eagles would never make it to the Super Bowl. He chose Buffalo wings because the Buffalo Bills had lost two consecutive Super Bowls at the time. "At least they're partying for two weeks before they lose," Morganti reasoned. (The Bills went on to lose a third and fourth in a row.)
Now, "I can relate to this," says Morganti, a native New Englander who suffered through the Boston Red Sox' drought. "It's a great feeling."
There's another reason Morganti is not keen on going to Jacksonville.
"To be frank, it's so corporate," Morganti says.
WIP says it is trying to avoid the same fate for Wing Bowl, as it has grown into a cash cow that generates in the high six figures, said station manager Marc Rayfield.
Wing Bowl has come to draw international coverage and more sponsors. This time, US Airways agreed to provide trips not only to the winning eater and top Wingette, but also to random attendees. Resorts Atlantic City will sent up a blackjack tournament in the concourse as a sideshow.
The station considered inviting Takeru Kobayashi of Japan, billed as the world's top competitive eater, but decided against it. "We want it to remain a local event," Rayfield said. "So we'll stack the deck by encouraging more local people to enter."
Even so, last year's winner, Sonya Thomas of Virginia, will return, as will Bill "El Wingador" Simmons, a New Jersey truck driver and four-time winner who thought he'd been robbed last year
BTW: Here's a list of some of the qualifiers for Wing Bowl:
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE RECORDS? I would say there are five for which I am most proud (in descending order): 1. Hard-boiled eggs: 65 in 6' 40 seconds. 2. Acme oysters: 432 in 10 minutes. 3. Cheesecake: 11 pounds in 9 minutes. 4. Buffalo wings: 162 (5.09 pounds) in 12 minutes. 5. Baked beans: 8.4 pounds in 2' 47 seconds.
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