It was about 7:30 a.m.when porn legend Ron Jeremy leaned into a microphone and told 15,000 people inside a basketball stadium everything anyone needed to know about the sleazy entertainment, competitive eating binge before us and its place of origin.
“This,” started ‘the Hedgehog,’ his signature long, greasy hair and mustache alive in the sea of Wing Bowl 19 Friday, Feb. 4, “would only work in Philadelphia.”
I arrived at the stadium district of South Philadelphia with a buddy some two hours earlier, slinging back Kenzingers on the walk from the subway to the Wells Fargo Center, home of the Sixers and Flyers. We were there to see our first competitive eating match — this a battle of several dozen eaters cleaning the meat off of hot buffalo wings — but the event has developed its own reputation for other kinds of excess: large-scale entourages entering on floats, strippers, porn stars, event promotions and marketing, flashing, drinking and its ilk.
Some see Wing Bowl, which was founded by a couple of sports talk shock jocks at 610 AM WIP, as perfectly Philadelphian in its regional flavor and for giving sex and sleaze to binge eating, a true carnival of excess. Of course, others just see it as the most boorish display in a city known for such depths. [The second Philly institutional event of the year for me.]
Whatever the case, it was an experience I’ve wanted to see first hand, and I thought I ought to pass on some of my experience.
Below, I share text message reports from that day, those that I sent and some I should have.
Watch this video from someone else’s Wing Bowl 19 experience.
4:55 a.m. Picked up by my buddy, we’re heading for the Broad Street Line.
5:17 a.m. Pack of 15 guys, a crew of middle-aged roughneck types and who look like their sons. They have cardboard Wawa containers with lite beer and are tanking them as we leave the Walnut-Locust stop.
5:21 a.m. Big guy with a bald head and a thick goatee: “one thing I like about trains, ain’t nothing wrong with sipping vodka on the road.”
5:28 a.m. Same guy gives advice to kid: “this is America. you get whatever you want if you complain enough.”
5:37 a.m. We at stadium district, a lot more drunk, loud dudes than I realized were on that train
5:47 a.m. After couple beers in parking lot, we pile into stadium, through security
6:04 a.m. $10 tickets at all levels, but only mezzanine was available when I got, only half full now, people filing in
6:10 a.m. floor of stadium half for competitive eating and 610 WIP guys, half with mechanical bull for girls and a band
6:14 a.m. women everywhere, including the wingettes who ask for the chance to be involved
6:23 a.m. Chubby 20-something with a beer to my right says when first girl flashing is on big screen… “I will be coming here everyday until the day i die”
6:31 a.m. Lower levels have girls and seems classier group, up here, it’s mostly dudes with binoculars
6:45 a.m. Eaters have been coming in with their entourages, including lots of girls and strippers, lots of flashing in stands
6:46 a.m. one of the favorites is from Ontario, Canada; 60 to one odds on the big guy from Manayunk
6:48 a.m. and then Ron Jeremy was here
6:53 a.m. three major things we have excess of: wings, sex and bizarre costumes
7:13 a.m. now entering Kenzo Kev.
7:16 a.m. A homeless guy named ‘Not Rich’ comes in — he seems overwhelmed and it seems fucked up
7:16 a.m. all these dudes won different regional contests to get to be here, surprised no lady participants
7:17 a.m. and the guy who won at SugarHouse was ‘Gentleman Joe’ wearing a Yankees shirt
7:20 a.m. the mezzanine has now descended into chaos [in a corner, two girls had started flashing and hordes of men were looking at the first flesh on the second level]
7:33 a.m. Ron Jeremy says: ‘this would only work in Philadelphia’
8:13 a.m. The weed smell just got stronger at halftime, and, yes, there is a halftime.
8:22 a.m. apparent Wing Bowl toolkit: binoculars, camera, beer, generic Philly sports gear and hot female friend you don’t necessarily respect but who craves attention
8:33 a.m. I bet you’ve never seen this many strippers on a mechanical bull.
8:37 a.m. in brilliant partnerships, lots of strip clubs promote by bringing girls, but some normal women are in the stands, not seeming slutty, just having fun, though, yes, some seem desperate, very desperate
8:41 a.m. audience mostly packs of middle-aged guys and lots of 20 and 30 something dudes, some with female friends
8:42 a.m. good god, that is a big pile of wings
8:51 a.m. They’re calling the $50k winning package the biggest prize in competitive eating history. this is carnival of excess
9:21 a.m. oh btw, kobayashi ate a cheesesteak in less than 20 seconds and says he’ll compete next year