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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

I Don't Know What's Worse. . .

That people actually sign up for this, or that about 20,000 will go to Philadelphia's Wachovia Center on Friday, February 6, to watch this blessed event. (Thanks to SportsFrog for the tip).

I suppose it's all good, clean fun (err, it might not be so clean if someone gets sick while participating), at least for the participants, but why would people actually blow off work to watch the Wing Bowl? There are plenty of outstanding events in Philadelphia where one can be a spectator -- it's the college hoops capital of the United States (Villanova, Temple, St. Joe's, Penn, LaSalle and Drexel), there are four major sports teams and the last time I checked the orchestra was pretty good too. Somehow, in the list of top events that take place in the city every year, I don't think Wing Bowl makes it.

But 20,000 will be there, watching. (Aw, heck, thousands more watch NASCAR every weekend, and I'm sure many are waiting to see crashes; I don't think that the 20,000 or so in South Philadelphia are that eager to watch vomiting, are they? Put another way, is this analogy giving you an appropriate sense of perspective, or am I missing the boat -- and it's not a shrimp boat, by the way -- here?).

Yeah, I know, fans once threw snowballs at the Cowboys, they cheered when Michael Irvin suffered a career-ending injury, they booed Santa Claus and they once booed Dodger hurler Burt Hooten off the mound in a playoff game. This is Rocky's town, and the only town where, during the NFL strike in the mid-1980's, union truckers ringed Vet Stadium to try to prevent people from watching the replacement players play for the Birds. Tough on each other, but very tough on outsiders who dare criticize the pastimes that transpire within.

Such as watching the Mummers' Parade on New Year's Day. Eating scrapple. Eating cheesestakes from Geno's or Pat's (with or without -- and you know what I mean if you've been there and, if you don't, I'll explain later). And watching people eat hundreds of chicken wings as fast as humanly possible. I am sure that there are even color commentators who will advise as to the unique skills that are required to win one of these wars of attrition.

Ancient Rome fell for a variety of reasons, from lead in the water pipes to having unworthy people buy public office, to having Christians fighting lions in big arenas to holding public lotteries that had people buying hope. This is not to suggest that the Wing Bowl is a harbinger of the end of civilization, because the issues it raises pale in comparison to, among other things, nukes in Iran, but the Wing Bowl itself has struck me more as a sometimes-amusing appeal to some of our basest instincts.

Such as eating too much.

As if that should be celebrated in this country. (Or am I taking this sophomoric exercise in Philadelphia a bit too seriously?)

Friday marks the day that gluttony is celebrated in Philadelphia. I shudder to think when the other six deadly sins will be given as public a forum in the City of Brotherly Love, the Cradle of Liberty.

Instead of using the Wachovia Center, they probably could sell tickets to Lincoln Financial Field and let people make a day of it.

But, while they're at it now, bring back El Wingador!

After all, sports aren't doing so well in Philadelphia right now. The 76ers seem stuck on a decade-long malaise where they'll finish about 5 games under .500 and never get a good enough draft to improve. Gravity has pulled the Flyers down to earth hard -- that and injuries to key players (somehow, the 2005-2006 season is the Year of the Groin Injury). The Eagles had 13 players on the injured reserve list this past season, had a hobbled quarterback and a star WR with a self-inflicted career wound. They could be back next season. The Phillies remain in denial about the quality of their starting pitching staff and will be fortunate to break .500 this year. As for college basketball, Villanova and Penn look like shoo-ins for the Big Dance, and, who knows, perhaps Jon Bon Jovi's Philadelphia Soul will make their mark in Arena Football. Overall, though, a rather bleak prognosis.

This time of the year is traditional slow in the world of sports. March Madness hasn't kicked in yet, and pitchers and catchers haven't reported. National Signing Day for college football is big in areas where college football is huge (and Penn State kind of qualifies in Philadelphia), but it's not an event. The NBA All-Star game isn't here yet, and not too many seem all that jazzed about either the World Baseball Classic or the Winter Olympics. And, of course, the Super Bowl is several days away.

It's been said that where vacuums exist, you should rush to fill them, or else the laws of nature are such that the wrong things -- things you don't want -- will fill them for you. So, perhaps, the Wing Bowl helps from the Law of the Vacuum.

Leave an opening, and people will fill it with the most interesting of things.

Such as a chicken-wing eating contest first thing in the morning!

Let the fans beware.


Anonymous The Sports Curmudgeon said...

The Wing Bowl has taken on a life of its own; it's as much a part of the rhythm of the city as is the Mummers' Parade.

And you have to love the fundamental rule of Wing Bowl:

You heave; you leave!

6:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gluttony? You have to be kidding me. I guess it is much better to be a NASCAR fan. Show how we can go to war to protect our oil supplies so we can watch people race around a track. That is a great use of of an oil and oil products.

9:03 AM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Thanks for your comments, guys. My guess is that you have to be a dyed-in-the-wool Philadelphian to understand the meaning of the Wing Bowl. As for whether it's better to be a NASCAR fan, I don't understand the attraction there either.

1:21 PM  

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