Tepid. With mild sauce.
About two dozen hungry men attacked the wings — tearing at the meat, their faces smeared with orange sauce. Perfumed young women wearing almost nothing kept the wings coming, bending low with paper plates.
Nearly 20,000 people cheered the spectacle, having paid $5 each for the privilege.
That team across the state, the Pittsburgh Steelers, may have the honor of playing for the NFL championship, but this is how Philadelphia celebrates Super Bowl week.
This is Wing Bowl.
A radio station stunt created 14 years ago to placate Philadelphia Eagles fans, whose team almost always sits out the big game, Wing Bowl is supposed to be an eating contest. It is actually a bacchanal — a beer-soaked, stripper-friendly, crack-of-dawn orgy that has become a local institution, the city's version of Mardi Gras.
The Philadelphia 76ers and the Philadelphia Flyers don't regularly sell out the Wachovia Center, where Wing Bowl 14 crowned a new champ Friday. The Wing Bowl always sells out. Last year, when the Eagles did make it to the Super Bowl, police had to turn away some 10,000 rowdy fans trying to join 20,000 already inside for Wing Bowl 13.
This year, organizers for the first time sold tickets, hoping to manage the crowd. Cups of beer and soda were thrown onto the stage. Women bared their breasts. The parking lots were ankle-deep in beer cans.
In other words, it was a huge success.
In the soothing words of Angelo Cataldi, the morning guy for WIP, the sports radio station that sponsors the feast: "Nobody got hurt."
Try telling that to Dave Inderbitzin, also known as Dr. Winglove, who turned as green as his Eagles shirt after downing more than a hundred chicken wings in 25 minutes. He sat clutching his belly, unable to take another bite.
Timothy Cusich, also known as Dr. Slob, was in worse shape. In the heat of competition, he rose solemnly, turned, and threw up into a conveniently situated trashcan. The crowd went wild.
The annual festivities are not promoted by the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, which this year has preferred to focus on the 300th birthday celebration of another big eater, Benjamin Franklin.
But Wing Bowl seems to reflect the character of this proud, blue-collar town — a bit parochial, a little defensive, a burg with an attitude ("attytood" in Philadelphia-ese).
Political correctness was suspended for the day. The pre-competition parade of contestants featured a float honoring Steve Spaulding, also known as Ex Con, who was strapped to a 10-foot-high mock electric chair.
And the "Wingettes" — the young women who serve up the wings — vamped for the crowd.
"Nowhere but in Philly would you see this — or understand it," said WIP general manager Marc Rayfield, a proud son of the city.
Rayfield mentioned that a crew was there filming a Wing Bowl documentary. Working title: "Swallow Your Pride."