The last 12 months haven’t been kind to Philadelphia’s sports scene—the Sixers were bounced from the NBA playoffs, thanks to the hated Boston Celtics; the Flyers fell to the Devils in the NHL’s Stanley Cup playoffs; the Phillies underachieved and missed the playoffs; and the Eagles—well, there’s a reason the team just hired a new coach.
So for three-time Wing Bowl champ and Camden County native Jonathan “Super” Squibb, this year isn’t just about regaining the chicken-bedecked crown he lost last year.
It’s about giving Philadelphia someone to celebrate.
“I took the loss last year pretty hard—not having the crown felt kind of empty,” Squibb said. “It’s been a rough year … this will give me a chance to bring a championship to Philly.”
Wing Bowl 21, set for Feb. 1 at the Wells Fargo Center, will be a bit different—besides the usual crowd of local competitors, Squibb will face a pack of all-star eaters picked from Chicago, Dallas, New York and Washington, D.C.
To his advantage, though, Squibb won’t have to contend against the only man who’s bested him—legendary Japanese eater Takeru Kobayashi, who obliterated Squibb’s record last year, ripping through 337 wings like a turbocharged locust.
“It was cool having him there—it’s kind of like going up against Jordan in his prime,” Squibb said. “It didn’t really change my mentality, though.”
While the loss stung, having to compete against Kobayashi pushed Squibb to his best-ever total—his 271 wings would’ve been a new event record—and the three-time champ said seeing someone break 300 proved the feat possible.
But for Squibb, it doesn’t matter who’s lined up on the Wells Fargo Center stage alongside him—big name or small.
“I haven’t really focused too much on the competition this year,” he said. “I have a couple guys on my radar ... I never look past anyone who’s coming in—I came out of nowhere to win.”
Despite the loss last year, Squibb said he hasn’t made any drastic changes to his training regimen for the 21st edition, though he’s still aiming for roughly a 10 percent improvement over last year, pegging his mark at around 300 wings this year.
Interestingly, chicken wings barely have a place in Squibb’s diet—apart from the 18,000 calories or so he’ll consume in a single sitting in a few weeks—which trends toward a paleo diet, with an emphasis on organic food.
“I have a drastically different eating habit outside of competitive eating,” he said.
Of course, it’s easy to attack plates of wings in the spotlight of one of Philly’s biggest—and weirdest—competitions of the year, with 20,000 screaming, frequently drunk fans urging on the debauchery.
“You don’t find this kind of thing outside of Philly,” Squibb said. “Its like Philly’s Mardi Gras ... It’s just surreal to have that many people cheering for you.”
If Squibb can pull off the victory, he would trail just one other champion—and Wing Bowl Hall of Famer—for most Wing Bowl titles: Bill “El Wingador” Simmons, who hung it up after finishing third last year. Simmons won’t even be in the building this time, as he’s currently awaiting trial after being arrested in Gloucester County last summer for allegedly dealing cocaine.
Even if El Wingador had been back this year, Squibb said the tide has inevitably shifted.
“He definitely had his time, but I think my time’s now,” Squibb said. “I’m going to do my best to win as many Wing Bowls as I can.”