Scroll down to see Jim Walsh's tweets and videos from Wing Bowl.
PHILADELPHIA - A reporter covering Wing Bowl needs a few essentials — a fresh notebook, extra pens, a fully charged phone.
And a list of the seven deadly sins, so you can cross off each offense as the debauchery rages.
Gluttony was easy to spot at Friday’s early-morning event in the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia.
An eating contest featured 10,000 chicken wings and competitors with names like Oink Oink, Butter Boy and Porky Balboa.
I’m pretty sure that smoldered when a beauty pageant presented scantily clad women called Wingettes.
And greed, wrath, envy … well, I’m getting ahead of myself.
It might be enough to say that Wing Bowl – held for 26 years on the Friday before the Super Bowl — is equal parts pep rally and Pepto-Bismol.
"It's the worst common denominator of Philly fans," explained Brent Wolcoff of Voorhees, drinking beer with three friends outside the arena around 5 a.m.
"But everybody's having a good time," he added.
A sell-out crowd began arriving around 4 a.m., creating a sea of green and white in Philadelphia Eagles gear. They roared two hours later as the 29 competitors began a stop-and-start parade through clouds of confetti inside the arena.
Eye-catching entourages led eaters past an excited throng — and more than a few thongs.
The eaters egged on the crowd — staging fights, throwing pasta and simulating sex acts, for instance.
Spectators joined in chants for the Eagles, obscenities for the New England Patriots and enthusiastic cheers for Wingettes whose dance moves suggested a familiarity with strip clubs.
"It's like a jay-vee bachelor party," said Robert Marshall, a Voorhees man who works in sales.
The show even drew a few celebrities, like Ric Flair, the wrestler, and Jigar Desai, better known as the Eagles fan who ran into a subway pole.
When the competition began, each eater sat behind two plates, each holding 20 pieces of chicken — 10 drumsticks, 10 paddles. Behind them, Wingettes stood ready to serve more plates and to offer encouragement.
Then the chewing — and some spewing — began.
The eaters gulped their way through two 14-minute elimination heats before five finalists faced off in a furious two-minute championship round.
For added pressure, any eater who faltered quickly drew cameras that showed his or her distress on the arena's jumbo-screen. A man competing as Butch from Manayunk sparked an uproar as he pitched back and forth in his seat, his face contorting in a losing battle with some half-eaten chicken.
The wings at Friday’s event — about 900 pounds in all — came from South Jersey, by the way.
They were prepared after midnight at a P.J. Whelihan’s restaurant in Westmont, Wing Bowl's supplier since 2008. The wings, along with 10 gallons of a mild sauce, arrived in South Philly around 3 a.m.
Many contestants earned a seat at the table by completing eating stunts in the studio of a sports-radio show, Angelo Cataldi & The Morning Team on 94.1 WIP.
In the six-man first-responder division, for instance, Bill “Boub” Hammer qualified by wolfing down three cans of dog food in four minutes — and sharing the last bite with his wife via a kiss.
Contestants wanted more than heartburn, of course.
The overall winner — professional eater Molly Schuyler of California — received $5,000, a car and a $7,500 ring.
Excess is standard at Wing Bowl celebration in Philadelphia Jim Walsh
She also set a record by devouring 501 wings, said Cataldi, whose show broadcast the competition. Schuyler, who describes herself as a "tattooed, pierce piece of wonder, also won Wing Bowl in 2014 and 2016.
There were limits to people’s behavior, of course.
"Do not go to Wells Fargo Center if you do not have a ticket,” warned an online list of Wing Bowl do's and don'ts. “You will not be able to even enter the parking lot.”
Spectators also were barred from bringing their own food to the eating contest. That explained the sizable number of young men eating 5 a.m. cheesesteaks and roast pork sandwiches in the arena's concourse.
But despite the bacchanalian distractions, I'm glad to say my attention never wavered — and the result is this very good story.
Oops, that's the sin of pride.
Jim Walsh: @jwalsh_cp; 856-486-2646; firstname.lastname@example.org
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