Monday, January 12, 2009

Competitive Eating Manager Turns Competitive Eater

(Rick "The Manager" at the 2008 Wing Bowl)

There is something magical about the beginning of January. A new year has just begun, football excitement is in full swing, and the city of Philadelphia is getting ready to become bombarded with scantily-clad women and carnivorous lovers of the almighty wing. Locals and out-of-towners alike look forward to the Wing Bowl every year as it glorifies indulgence; a time when it is not only accepted but expected to eat, drink, and be merry for a night in the City of Brotherly Love.

No one could be more excited for the Wing Bowl this year than Rick “The Manager” Russo, who qualified today to be a competitor in Wing Bowl 17. Russo, a Royersford P.A. resident has had many roles in the Wing Bowl in past years—duties which have included participating in eater entourages and even managing some competitors.

Although “The Manager” rejoices tonight in knowing that he will be competing with the elite wing eaters of the Philadelphia area, his journey to the table didn’t start out so optimistic. The year began out in chaos when 610WIP announced that they wanted to keep the contest only open to local competitors. Automatically, big named eaters such as Joey Chestnut and Pat Bertoletti who dominated Wing Bowl’s past were turned away from the competition. Along with the ‘keep it local’ mentality, Wing Bowl organizers also decided to eliminate all professional eaters, meaning that even the local pros such as Wing Kong, Steakbellie, and Humble Bob would not be able to compete.

With the omission of his seasoned eaters-friends from this year’s Wing Bowl, Rick “The Manager” almost lost all hope in being in the hullabaloo of the 17th Wing Bowl. Adding to the fact that his professional eater friends could not participate, Dave “The Dumpster”, an eater Russo manages and has been in the Wing Bowl the past few years decided to opt out this time around. Leaving “The Manager” without an entourage to join or an eater to manage, Rick was determined to find a way to place an eater in the contest…until he got distracted.

Rick’s wife Sherri found out that she had a cancer on her thyroid that had to be removed. This immediately made “The Manager” forget about trying to place an eater in the Wing Bowl and turn his entire focus on helping his wife get through her surgery. Luckily, Sherri made it through her surgery and is recovering well; able-bodied enough to decide it was time to live her dream of being a human plate.

Wait a minute. Rewind. A human plate? What is a human plate you might ask. Well, it is exactly what it sounds like. A human (preferably a woman) places food on her body (preferably not wearing a lot of clothes) while someone (usually a man) eats food off of said woman. While watching T.V. one night, the Russos stumbled across one of those “Las Vegas: Exposed” shows on the Travel Channel and discovered that one of the sexiest jobs in Vegas was to be a human plate. Mrs. “The Manager” Sherri thought it would be fun to try and be a human plate someday, which got gears rolling at full speed in Rick’s mind.

A few nights later while “The Manager” was taking a shower, a light bulb went off in his head. Rick still had it in the back of his mind that he would try to place an eater in Wing Bowl 17 but was unlucky at doing so. But after thinking about this fact for a minute, and remembering Sherri’s new-found dream of being a human plate, Rick “The Manager” had an epiphany. He, himself would qualify for the Wing Bowl by eating food off of a human plate; his wife. But what food would he eat off of this nearly-naked woman? He racked his mind trying to think of the perfect human-plate-food…first toying with the ever-so-Philly idea of cheese steaks, but that just wasn’t sexy enough to be eating off of a hot girl. Finally, “The Manager” decided on the epitome of sexy food to use for his stunt: Sushi.

The plan was set. To finalize this dual dream--one of being in the Wing Bowl and the other of being a sexy human plate, Rick “The Manager” Russo called in to 610WIP last week to propose his idea to the Wing Bowl promoters. His stunt: eating 4 feet of sushi off of two women wearing only Victoria’s Secret lingerie. Ingenious. How could one turn down a stunt involving sushi and women in underwear? “The Manager” practiced his stunt once, actually eating 5 feet (in length) of sushi and sashimi in 2 minutes and 38 seconds, surpassing what he had assumed he could do. Today, to qualify, he was actually given 6 minutes by the radio station to complete his stunt but definitely surpassed his practicing time. As far as preparation for the big day, Rick plans on practicing various eating techniques, but for the most part, he says he'll just 'wing it'. He is has high hopes of doing quite well in this contest and is excited to participate knowing that no matter what happens in the end, someone from the ‘home team’ of Philadelphia will bring back the title this year.

With a new-found talent for an already established interest in competitive eating, I think this will be the first of many contests in which “The Manager” is a participant instead of a spectator. Encouraging all he encounters to "Eat Each Meal Like It's Your Last," Russo seems like he is ready to enter the elite competitive eating game with full force. Keep a look out, Rick “The Manager” Russo might be dropping that nickname for one more suitable of a professional eater.