There are some things in life that you can’t make sense of, even as you watch them unfold with your own eyes.
Take Molly Schuyler. The skinny mother of four beat out a bevy of burly competitive eating veterans yesterday morning to win Wing Bowl 22 in front of a rabid packed house at the Wells Fargo Center.
The fact that she won isn’t what defied belief. It’s how she won.
Schuyler put away a record 363 chicken wings in three rounds – in the span of an hour – with a level of speed and ferocity that left even WIP morning-show host and Wing Bowl co-creator Angelo Cataldi speechless.
OK – Cataldi might not be capable of speechlessness. But he was still plenty stunned.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” he said. “It’s like an optical illusion, or a medical miracle. I think she’s capable of 400 [wings].”
Schuyler, who’s only been at the competitive eating game for two years, seemed taken aback by her victory as confetti rained down on the stage moments after the contest ended. Her peers shuffled around in silence nearby, bits of wings clinging to their sauce-stained mugs.
Cameras and microphones sprouted in front of Schuyler’s face. People shouted her name. Some wanted interviews, others wanted to pose for pictures with her.
“I didn’t expect to win,” she said.
Schuyler doesn’t have much of a track record. According to the Omaha World-Herald, she conquered a handful of eating challenges in 2012 in Bellevue, Neb., outside Omana, where she lives with her husband and kids and bartends at an Applebee’s.
Schuyler probably attracted the most attention for a YouTube video earlier this year that showed her annihilating a 72-ounce steak in Portland, Ore., in less than three minutes.
Her game plan yesterday was simple: don’t throw up, and don’t pay attention to the number of wings she was eating.
The victory came with a $22,000 prize.
“I can pay my bills now,” Schuyler said, allowing a sheepish smile.
Cataldi said he hopes he can lure both Schuyler and competitive eating legend Takeru Kobayashi to next year’s Wing Bowl. The two, he said, are the best he’s ever seen.
“We’ll see what happens,” Schuyler said. “I don’t want to competitive eat forever. It’s hard on my family.”
Schuyler beat out Patrick Bertoletti, who gulped 356 wings, and Jamie “The Bear” McDonald, last year’s winner, who devoured 304 wings.
Eagles center Jason Kelce became the first pro athlete in the city to participate in Wing Bowl. He entered the arena to thunderous applause, while team president Don Smolenski drove him around in a motorized Eagles helmet.
“WIP puts on a great event. I was fortunate to be a part of it last year as a spectator,” Kelce said, while wearing Google Glass as he sat on the edge of the stage.
He made it through the first round, eating 65 wings in 14 minutes. “I can’t believe I ate 65 wings!” he said.
Retired Phillies slugger Matt Stairs, who blasted a game-winning pinch-hit home run against the Dodgers during Game 4 of the National League Championship Series in 2008, received a hero’s welcome when he appeared in a pinstriped jersey – and promptly poured two cans of beer into his mouth.
About an hour before he guzzled the beers, Stairs got warm and fuzzy thinking about the celebration that followed the Phillies’ World Series title in ’08.
“People talk about Wing Bowl being crazy, but you should see 3 million people at a parade,” he said. “I like to come a couple of times a year, go around, shake hands and say hello to people.”
Wing Bowl 22 featured plenty of uglier moments, too. The douche-bag ratio remained stubbornly high in the seats. Some fans tried to pelt arena workers with Mardi Gras-style beads, while others lustily booed women who refused to flash the crowd if they appeared on the video screens. Others simply shouted, “Show us your t—!”
A group of Wingettes almost tumbled from a float belonging to one contestant, the “Ice Man,” as it tried to circle the arena floor.
“Uh-oh, strippers down,” bellowed a man nearby.
“We’re not strippers, a–hole,” responded one of the women.
Giahna Mesoraca, 19, of South Philly, was named Wingette of the Year, and took home a Harley-Davidson 883 Sportster motorcycle.
“Oh my God, it’s so crazy here,” she said, “but we’re having so much fun.”