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By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS) — The Friday of Super Bowl weekend has now become a rite of passage, a bucket list ritual for any Philadelphia sports fan. Where else can you see a pair of strippers taking pictures with Ben Franklin?
It’s viscerally Philadelphia. They flock to Wing Bowl each year knowing where to go to see miles of jubilating cleavage, where to go for tailgate parties in the Wells Fargo Center parking lot, to see flying hot sauce, and an occasional wobbling drunk along with unfettered, fun debauchery.
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Hey, even new Eagles’ coach Chip Kelly, who made an appearance at Wing Bowl XXI, knows … “that the second most important bowl, besides the Super Bowl, which is my goal, is the Wing Bowl” in Philadelphia.
It’s no longer a night at Caligula’s palace—it’s a weekend condensed into a few hours.
Wing Bowl XXI didn’t disappoint.
Neither did Jamie “The Bear” McDonald.
Squeezed somewhere into the mayhem, the Granby, Connecticut native upset three-time champion Jon Squibb by inhaling 287 wings and edging out Squibb, who finished with 282. Squibb was trying to regain his crown after his three-year streak was broken by legendary eating champion Takeru Kobayashi’s Wing Bowl-record 337 wings last year.
The theme to this year’s “Bowl” was the imported eaters from Dallas, Chicago, Washington. D.C. and the Boston/New England area. They had no idea the bizarro zone they were entering. They were stunned with a Philly fist in the face. First, by the throaty, frothy crowd, then dealing with Philly’s adopted eating son, Squibb.
Entering the contest, the largest threat to Squibb was McDonald, a 37-year-old three-year U.S. Navy veteran who came in on a float with a heavy Boston sports motif, donning a New England Patriots’ Tom Brady jersey.
As expected, boos rained down on the “outsiders” from New York, Dallas, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and on McDonald’s Boston/New England contingent.
It figured to be McDonald and Squibb in the end, ripping by the assorted collection of characters like the “Bam Bam Wingalows,” “Rob the Slobs,” “Snack Jacks” and “King Discos” competing.
Squibb had some work to do after the first 15-minute round, trailing Dave Goldstein, AKA US Male, 148-138, with McDonald a reasonably close third at 130. But during the second 14-minute round, McDonald got stronger, eating 135 wings, to take a 265-253 lead over Squibb in the final two-minute round before ending with his final total of 287.
“You know, this wasn’t necessarily as intimidating as I thought, but the final result was a lot closer than I thought it would be,” said McDonald, who began competitively eating a year ago. “I do take this seriously and I did feel myself getting stronger. This was a great event.”
The highlight of Wing Bowl XXI was Chip Kelly’s appearance. He came over from the NovaCare Complex around 7:40 AM. If he wants to endear himself quickly to Philadelphia sports fans, that’s the way to do it. Kelly certainly made an impact by being the first major Philadelphia professional coach to show up at Wing Bowl.
When Kelly was announced, a roaring crescendo of 20,000 shook the Wells Fargo Center and began chanting, “Chip, Chip, Chip.”
At first, Kelly was taken aback by the throng, but he had a general idea of what Wing Bowl was about. He got a firsthand look on Friday.
“I had recruited down here for a while, so I knew I heard about [Wing Bowl],” Kelly said. “There is a passion here they have for the Eagles and I got a chance to see that in person today. They’re excited and that came out. This was great, I’m happy I did it, now I have to go across the street and back to work.”
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philadelphia.