DANTE'S JOURNEY into the netherworld starts with these words "In the middle of our life's journey, I found myself in a dark wood." And from that point on, with the wise guidance of Virgil, our hero plumbs the depths of hell, taking us on a journey through human sin, fallibility, sorrow and even love.
I know how he felt. This Friday, I took my own journey into that dark forest, only it was a few blocks from the subway at Broad and Pattison, and my Virgil was my dear friend John (accompanied by his beautiful wife Masako.) And I must say that it looked an awful lot like the Wells Fargo Center.
By now you must know that I am talking about Wing Bowl. Yes, that Wing Bowl, where women who are clothed inversely proportionate to their burqa-clad sisters in Afghanistan and men who beg those women to flash their bounty gather together in celebration of the city's deepest wound: no Super Bowl Championship.
The genesis of Wing Bowl, 24 years ago, was an attempt to give Philadelphians something to celebrate. This was well before our brief appearance at the Vomit Bowl with Donovan McNabb in '05, let alone our World Series win in 2008. Most Philadelphians were already trapped between Dante's Fifth Circle ("Anger") and were rapidly headed toward his Seventh Circle ("Violence.") So, the good folks at WIP Sports Radio had the brilliant idea to gather together people who were champions at something - eating - and provide the sad schmucks who were still paying off their season ticket invoices with something to cheer about.
I don't presume to know the entire history of Wing Bowl, but I know that from those altruistic beginnings it morphed into something entirely unique and sui generis: a family friendly orgy. In energy and the amount of food that ends up on the floor, it is similar to a Chuck-E-Cheese, and the women are as beautiful as any you would see in the Miss Universe pageant (except with less clothes and stranger accents.)
The grand showman of it all, sitting in the middle of the court like an emperor eating his bread and directing his circus, is the legendary Angelo Cataldi. This broadcaster, who I listen to every morning and who reminds me of the naughty little Italian boys I encountered in kindergarten with his PG-rated snickers, is a genius. He has come up with an equation that even Stephen Hawking missed: Nudity + Fried Food+Glitter+Vomit = Beloved Tradition. Brilliant.
So this was the dark forest I found myself in on Friday morning, with my trusty friend John leading me into the maelstrom (after we stood for about 15 minutes in the sleet, at 6 a.m.) I'd heard so much about Wing Bowl over the years, and had even caught glimpses of some of the Wingettes on television, so I expected to be shocked and horrified by the spectacle.
And guess what? I loved it. Perhaps growing up with three brothers, and then teaching in an all-boys school immunized me against the more disgusting aspects and bodily functions that come from an overabundance of testosterone. Or maybe it's just that I really have a problem with the whole "respect me I am a woman" feminist mantra that turns even the most marginally bacchanal event into a felony against all womanhood.
Frankly, I thought the spectacle was no worse than what I experienced for decades, sitting one row below the 700 level at the Vet. People were loud, they were a bit raucous, there was vomit and other bodily fluids but in a strange way, it was a happy fellowship of Philadelphians who wanted some - any - reason to celebrate life after football. No, I wouldn't want my nephew to be sitting there while buxom babes flashed their (I have to admit) beautiful racks of chicken wings to the crowds. But he's 7. Perhaps in a decade or so.
And while I myself would never qualify as a Wingette, and the few on my Facebook page who suggested that need to up their Zoloft prescription, I didn't find anything really raunchy about most of the females at Wells Fargo. I mean, I've seen much worse on the boardwalk. No, we're not talking Downton Abbey here, and I'm fairly certain that the ladies who were prancing around and flashing their bounty and booty have absolutely no need for that new "looks like a real woman" Barbie doll, but the whiny protests of consumptive feminists sound like a lot of Chicken Wing Little "the sky is falling."
So my little foray into the dark forest this week actually turned out to be just another fun thing I need to cross off my bucket list. Just don't ask me to look too deeply into that bucket, because I'm afraid of what I might find.
Christine Flowers is a lawyer. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @flowerlady61