A frat party, featuring wings

Wing Bowl has morphed from silly to depressing while remaining just as disgusting as you may have thought, and perhaps even sluttier than you imagined. (Staff Photos)

MAYBE I SHOULD'VE known better, even though I had never attended Wing Bowl before yesterday's annual bacchanal at the Wells Fargo Center.

After all, the debauchery of Wing Bowl long ago trumped its wholesome origins, in 1993, as a funny publicity stunt birthed by sports-radio jocks frustrated by Philly's lack of a Super Bowl win. The debauchery has been chronicled ad nauseum (yes, it's a pun) in this paper, on TV news and websites, via YouTube.

So you could argue that there was no need for me to see firsthand what I was missing. Except that I always assumed there must have been something missing, because who would attend an event limited only to gluttony, binge drinking, vomit and half-naked women? There had to be more to it, yes?

No. There is not more to it.

I know: Wing Bowl is peopled by consenting adults, and there's no harm in consenting adults doing whatever they want within the law. For example, I'm sure that the law was being followed by the whore-y woman I saw in the high seats, surrounded by a clot of men who kept glancing over their shoulders to see if anyone was watching.

Maybe she was giving a Tarot reading.

And we're all entitled to like what we like, march to our own band, follow our own path, to give to each his own and - please, someone stop this cliche chain before my editor slaps me.

I guess what depresses me is that so many people look at Wing Bowl and think, "Now there's a band I want to march to!"

Although Wing Bowl 22 was not as disgusting as I feared it would be (but only because someone vomited next to me instead of on me), its crudeness was more shocking than I expected. And I grew up with brothers whose fart jokes could send me into laughter for days.

One thing it absolutely wasn't was fun. Like, in any way. At all. It could have been, if the emphasis had stayed on the wing-eating contest, which is just plain silly - from its funny parade of contestants before the first round to the absurd crowning of the champion chewer. Even the archival footage on the Jumbotron of a 2001 contestant projectile vomiting quarts of stomach contents all over his plate was, well, kind of funny.

Like I said, I grew up with brothers.

But this thing is now a gigantic, boozy frat'n'bachelor party at a disgusting strip joint that just happens, one night, to hold an eating contest.

It wasn't fun slipping and sliding around the Wells Fargo Center on slicks of beer and urine.

It wasn't fun seeing dozens of strippers - recruited to work the event - act "sexy" in that pathetic, "empowered" way that girls learn by watching music videos.

It wasn't fun seeing so many men drunk beyond comprehension by 7 a.m., heads in hands, feet in pools of puke - some of it their own.

It wasn't fun seeing female attendees lift their shirts and flash their naked boobs just because a lecherous Jumbotron operator zeroed in on them, inciting the crowd to chant, T--s! T--s! T--s! And it really wasn't fun watching two young women - the only females in a seating section of about 100 - give in to male chants to rub their bare breasts against one another, only to look alarmed when beery spectators reached out for a grope.

And it wasn't fun being slapped on my ass by a guy who said, "Lookin' good, babe!" because it will never be fun to be in a place where simply being female implies consent.

Basically, Wing Bowl attendees are divided into two camps: those who are checked out/acting out/passed out and those who are going, "Man, can you believe this?!" like they've just seen something spectacular. I tell you, the awe bar is set so low, you can't even see it.

The only value - and it's a pathetic one - I can see in Wing Bowl is that it provides a friendly place where a hopeless alcoholic can get plastered alongside normal drinkers enjoying a binge, so his inebriation blends in with the crowd's. It beats getting plastered at home, where his fed-up wife and kids are about to leave him for good.

For five deluded hours, his behavior is normal. After that, it's back to the sadness.

And that's no fun, either.


Email: polaner@phillynews.com

Phone: 215-854-2217

On Twitter: @RonniePhilly

Blog: ph.ly/RonnieBlog

Columns: ph.ly/Ronnie