Wing Man

I went to a party that was going on two weeks before the Super Bowl. The conference championship games were being played to determine who would make it to the big dance. I walked in at the start of the second game and saw a pile of money on the counter. Before my sunglasses even came off, I asked how I could get into the pools. One guy said, "It's too late, buddy. We have a few different ones going, and one has all the squares filled up. The other we can't let you do, since the game already started."

I saw a couple carrying out a cooler and the guy said to me, "I remember you made fun of me at one of the Halloween parties you wrote about. You made a big issue about me spelling my name and mentioning that I wanted to be quoted in your story."

I said, "Well, do you have any quotes for this one?"

His wife said, "Don't say a fucking word, Russ!"

He picked up the cooler and walked out.

Paul Willemssen, who was throwing the party, said, "I think that's your quote right there."

Paul showed me where the Chinese food was, and I grabbed a big plate of beef broccoli. I asked him how much it cost to have the food catered. He said, "Only $150. Last year we had Mexican food, and that was more expensive."

A couple of guys were telling me I should write about Mike Berg. But when I looked for him, they said, "Oh, he left already. But write that he's a wedding singer. He hates that."

I found out he is engaged to KGB DJ Shelly Dunn. And when I asked about him singing at weddings, someone else said, "He is a mobile DJ, and we give him a hard time about that."

There was a couple sitting outside watching one of the games. Usually the back yard is filled with smokers, but only a few people had cigarettes. When one song came on during the game, a blonde woman said, "Oh, we saw Eddie Money last night at the Belly Up." Another person said, "That dude is still alive?" And yet another broke out singing, "I've got two tickets to paradise / Pack your bags, we'll leave tonight."

She said, "Somebody held up one of his albums and he said, 'That's an old photo of me. That was taken before my second rehab.' "

I met a guy who owned his own plumbing company. He was talking about firing somebody. "I didn't fire him Friday. I wanted his ass to show up on Monday at 6:00 a.m. I'll fire him then." A few people laughed. I asked him if it's hard firing employees. He said, "Well, with this guy, it will be. I really like him. He's a good kid. But I asked him to do this one job, and he didn't do it right. I got fed up and just said, 'Okay, put the piping in any way you want.' I gave him a few chances."

I met a guy named Wayne Bird, who had some great stories. There were times he was talking so fast, I had a hard time following him. The more he drank, the harder it got to understand. He seemed really into the games, so I asked if he ever bet on them. He said, "Oh yeah, I enjoy betting. I once bet $1500 on a Super Bowl with a friend from San Francisco. It's when the Chargers played." I said, "I hope he gave you a lot of points, because the 49ers were heavily favored in that."

He continued, "No. I was just so sure the Chargers would give them a good game, and he was being so arrogant about his team. I wanted to shut him up."

I met a woman who surprised me with how much she knew about football. Her name was Deidre, and she said, "My uncle was Jack Lambert, so we learned a lot about the sport."

I said, "That linebacker from the Steelers? The one without teeth?"

Another lady said, "That's a rude thing to say."

I had to explain that when I got Sports Illustrated as a kid, Lambert was once on the cover. He was smiling but looked scary with his two front teeth missing.

Deidre didn't mind me saying that. She said, "We used to watch all his games. He sent us all the jerseys. It was a lot of fun."

Her husband Scott Halsey came over. He is about 6'3" -- a foot taller than Deidre. They looked cute together. And I was informed he had a famous uncle also: His great-uncle was Admiral Halsey. I had heard the name in regard to World War II but didn't know much about him. (Why didn't I pay more attention in school?) Scott told me all about his great-uncle and how they called him "Bull" Halsey, because he was bullheaded and did things his own way. Some of the things he did cost lives, but he won his battles as a fleet commander. Scott told me there was a ship named after him, and I said, "Also a song."

I asked him what his uncle thought of Paul McCartney's song "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey." Scott said, "When the song came out he heard about it. He said he never actually heard it, though."

Scott is going to be stationed in Japan for three years. It made me think of the friends I had in elementary school who had parents stationed at Miramar. They would be in our school for a few years and then they'd have to move.

At one point during the game, Paul was handed $150. It was the second pot he had won in the betting pools. Someone said, "This is fixed!" Paul laughed and pulled out a cigar. I lit mine and then said, "With all that money, you should light a cigar with one of those bills." Paul surprised me by saying, "That's a good idea."

He took a 20 and folded it. I said, "Why not use a single?" So Paul instead took a single dollar bill and lit it with his lighter. He then lit his cigar. And as he stood there with the bill on fire, I was surprised the flame hadn't burned more. I said, "You should put it out now. You can still use it." My mom would be so proud of me for saying that. When Paul blew out the flame, someone came over saying, "If 75 percent of the bill is intact, banks have to take it. You can still use that."

He handed it to me and said, "Here. It's a souvenir."

Another guy came over to the cooler we were standing at and said, "I'm taking another beer." Paul said, "Have a beer. Why not? They're free," which is a Belushi line from Animal House.

The Super Bowl party I went to two weeks later was in Philadelphia. (Hahaha -- just by writing that, my trip is now a tax write-off.)

Since the Eagles were in the Super Bowl, the entire town was excited. There were banners on every window and flags flying from car antennas. The strangest sight was from the window of the place I was staying. It was near a cemetery, and a funeral procession went by. As I brushed my teeth, watching the scene from the window, I wondered about the person who had passed away (and thinking about a friend from high school, Trish Ordoñez, who recently died from lung cancer). As the cars slowly passed by, with snow covering the ground and some of the headstones, I saw one car had an Eagles banner blowing in the breeze.

I remember sportscaster Ted Leitner often talking about how crazy the fans in Philly were. And Sports Illustrated recently reminded everyone that they once booed Santa Claus when he came to a December game.

After hearing countless locals talk about the "Wing Bowl," I had to ask what that was about. I was told it was a 13-year tradition in which people compete to see who can eat the most chicken wings. I figured I'd go check this event out, but when I got there, the police were arresting people. Some fans were fighting in the parking lot, complaining about not being let in. One police officer said, "There were 500 people lined up at 3:00 in the morning. This is crazy. We ended up turning away thousands of people before the event even started. Just to watch people eat."

One cop was injured and taken away by ambulance. I told another person who was mad he didn't make it in how I read on the airplane about a man who ate four 32-ounce jars of mayonnaise to win a contest. He said, "That's gross."

I agreed but found it just as gross when I saw the highlights of this event on the news. A giant fat guy with dirty blond hair tied with a tiny Asian woman named Sonia "Black Widow" Thomas. She won last year. They each ate 157 wings in the allotted time, so they had a two-minute "overtime." The guy ate 5 more wings to win a car and dethrone the champ.

My friend who lives in Philly suggested we go to a sports bar. That sounded great. A few of the places he called were charging $100 a person. We finally found a big place called Jillian's. They only charged $45 a person. And when we got there, this huge arcade/pool hall/burger joint was filled. A person at the door was telling fans, "You can pay $10, but that means you are standing and don't have a table." They were gladly paying.

I wondered why they didn't just watch the game at home or at another party. Every street seemed to have a party going on. As we drove through residential areas, we were amazed by all the Eagles decorations. One family was even out front holding signs as cars drove by.

When we went down one road, near a park, a deer ran out onto the road. My friend slammed on his brakes, and we stopped inches from the deer, which just stood there looking at us. Just then, another deer slammed into my side of the car. I jumped, looked over, and saw its face against the window as it then ran around the car.

There were green jerseys everywhere. One guy told me, "We were going to have a party, but my wife said it would be too much trouble. We would've made green Jell-O shots. I call those 'lime disease treats.' And I would've tried to talk my wife into recreating that scene from Monday Night Football where Terrell Owens is in the locker room and that chick dropped the towel. She'd never go for that, though." His wife just kept punching his arm, telling him to shut up. She finally said, "Why you makin' a fool of yourself to this reporter guy?"

Just like the previous party, women were trying to keep their men from giving me valuable quotes.

The energy of the room was amazing. I've been to rock concerts that weren't as loud. Unfortunately, when the Eagles lost, the place got quiet. Some people shouted things at the screen, as if the players and coaches could hear them. Others threw crumpled-up papers.

We walked outside and saw 30 police officers. Nobody could figure out what they were doing. Sometimes you hear of teams winning and everyone riots. The officers didn't seem to be having any problems.

After all, this wasn't the Wing Bowl.

Crash your party? Call 619-235-3000 x421 and leave an invitation for Josh Board.

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