By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS) — Jamie “The Bear” McDonald doesn’t fit the definition. Not at all. He doesn’t fall into the slopppy, bloated, gut-hanging stereotype of competitive eaters. To the contrary, the 37-year-old is a sleek 215 pounds, his biceps fill the sleeves of his Tom Brady Patriots’ jersey, and he benches 425. And he knows what he’s getting into on Friday at Wing Bowl XXI.
He knows he’s in enemy territory.
The novelty of this year’s version of the Philadelphia Mardi Gras is the import of competitive eaters from Dallas, Boston/New England, New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C.
The collection of eaters, along with their unique monikers of “Bam Bam Wingalow,” “Rob the Slob,” “The Bulldogs,” may be mere fodder for McDonald, nicknamed “The Bear” by his father when he was a kid. McDonald will represent the Boston/New England area and probably poses the largest threat to three-time Wing Bowl champion Jon Squibb.
Squibb, Wing Bowl champ from 2009-2011, reached a personal high last year by downing 271 wings. But that fell a distant second to competitive-eating legend Takeru Kobayashi, who dethroned Squibb last year by devouring a Wing Bowl-record 337 wings.
McDonald knows the hostile crucible he’s walking into the Wells Fargo Center Friday morning and is ready. The three-year U.S. Navy veteran is aiming high—very high, looking to break Kobayashi’s record.
“They’re not going to like me, I know that,” said a grinning McDonald, who’s down with his family from Granby, Connecticut. “I know I’m going to get booed and they may throw stuff at me, and I don’t mind, as long as it’s nothing dangerous or any bodily fluids. The key for me is going to be concentration. I met Jon Squibb briefly and he seems like a really good guy. He has experience in this and I don’t. So I’ll have to concentrate on eating. I don’t necessarily see myself as the underdog here, but I do know that I’m the outsider.”
McDonald, a Trinity College graduate who works in upper management of an international company, would like to shatter Kobayashi’s mark by downing 400 wings. That may be a tough task, as will going up against the super-charged Squibb, who says he’s more motivated for this that any of his previous Wing Bowls.
“For one, I want to get back my title, and I feel great, around 235 pounds,” said Squibb, who was on 94WIP Thursday morning with Angelo Cataldi. “It’s not about winning for myself, I feel like I’m representing the city. That didn’t hit home with me until I was in the air with Angelo this morning. The whole city is behind, and that’s the feeling I’m taking going into this. I’m really fired up for this.”
Squibb is going to get a great challenge in McDonald, a relative novice in competitive eating, though viewed in “eating circles” for his prowess in such a short span.
So while Chickie & Pete’s parking lot was packed for the annual, night-before weigh-in, two competitors with a lot in common managed to ignore the resounding din around them and began sharpening their sights on winning.
“My focus will be on breaking the record,” McDonald said. “I’m sure this is unlike anything I’ve ever done, eating before 20,000 people. But I know in the end it’s me against the food, not the crowd, or the other eaters. This is pretty insane, and there a lot of pressure, with my family being here. But I’m pretty confident in my own abilities.”
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.