From the Publisher's Desk: A whole new meaning for “wing man”

By Michele Grgas Thomas The Triplicate February 07, 2012 04:42 am

Last week, during all the pre-game hype, I heard some people talking about a chicken wing eating competition. I thought it was a joke. But come to find out there is actually a “Wing Bowl” – an annual chicken wing eating contest held in Philadelphia on the Friday before the Super Bowl.

Takeru Kobayashi consumed a record 337 chicken wings to win Wing Bowl XX on Feb. 3. He beat the standing record, and surpassed by 82 wings three-time defending champion Jon “Super” Squibb, who finished with his personal best. Third place went to five-time Wing Bowl champion, “El Wingador” who gobbled a measly 250 wings. Consuming 337 chicken wings in 30 minutes earned Kobayashi $20,000 cash and bragging rights for 2012.

Kobayashi, of Japan, weighed in at only 135 pounds, but he’s no rookie. He’s the six-time consecutive champ of Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest which takes place every Fourth of July in Coney Island, New York.  He set his first hot dog eating record (50 in 12 minutes) in 2001, the year he made his debut on the competitive eating scene.  He also holds the title for eating the most Twinkies in one minute (14). It’s said that Kobayashi consumed a cheesesteak in 24 seconds as part of an eating exhibition and once put away 55 cow brains to win the 2001 Glutton Bowl.

I don’t know what rock I’ve been living under but the phenomena of professional eating competitors and events like the Wing Bowl have been flying under my radar. I guess that’s why I wasn’t in Pennsylvania among the crowd of 20,000 at the Wells Fargo Center to cheer on the 26 competitors at this legendary wing eating event that started at 6 a.m. last Friday. Added value for those in attendance was the crowning of “Wingette of the Year,” a title for which 125 scantily clad women competed. Wing Bowl I had only about 10 spectators, so I guess you could say the sport of wing eating has really taken off.

When I ponder the act of eating 337 chicken wings­ — whether in one frenzied sitting or leisurely over the course of, say, a few months — I have no regrets about my decision to be a vegetarian. Wonder if Kobayashi, Super Squibb or El Wingador ever think about what those wings look like when they’re attached to a real chicken? Or what conditions those chicks were living in before they gave up their wings?

According to Drew Cerza who founded the National Buffalo Wing Festival, twenty billion wings are consumed every year, with 1 billion consumed on Super Bowl Sunday. He should know. The native Buffalonian is the self-proclaimed “Wing King” who hatched the first wing ding. Thirty-seven tons of wings were served to an estimated 85,000 people at the 2011 festival last Labor Day weekend held in, you guessed it, Buffalo, New York.

Reach Michele Thomas, the Del Norte Triplicate’s publisher, at mt­ho­mas­@triplicate.com, 464-2141 or stop by 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.