Wing Nut

Tired of covering the action, our sportswriter shoots for gluttonous fame

Then, a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon ESPN's Wing Bowl promotion. Perfect, I thought, and signed up. Call it foolish if you like; I saw it as destiny.

No, in retrospect, you're right, foolish is probably a better description. There is only one minute left in our qualifying heat. I've eaten maybe 12 wings, and just looking at the enormous plate in front of me makes me want to boot. But I push on, biting into more wings even though there's no room in my stomach or my mouth, because Rose and the crowd expect it of me. I don't want to disappoint them.

When time is called by the judge, I'm convinced of two things: I've won my heat, and I'm going to need to see the paramedics posthaste. Unfortunately, I was right about the latter only--turns out the guy on my left, Jay, ate 18 wings to my 15. I begin to point out to the judges that he didn't clean his bones, as per the rules, but then I stop. The victor has to eat again in 10 minutes, something that's well beyond my capabilities at this point. Just like that, my first foray into the world of competitive eating is over. I congratulate Jay and go in search of somewhere to lie down and concentrate on breathing. WingZilla has become SkirtZilla.

The only way to fly is on the wings of love.
The only way to fly is on the wings of love.

Before I can leave, the owner of Lonnegan's, a big guy named Bob who looks like he could have done well in the contest, comes over to say hello. "You may not have won," he tells me, "but I loved your enthusiasm. The shirt, the whole deal was great. You're welcome back here anytime. The wings are on me."

"Thanks," I tell him, thinking, "Yeah, that's exactly what I need--more wings."

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