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Wings and more wings


No remembrance of hot wings can be complete without a nod to Buffalo Wild Wings (BWW). It started in 1981 when a James Disbrow moved from wing Mecca (Buffalo, New York) to an abyss (Kent, Ohio). Unable to find a decent wing in the Buckeye State, he decided to open his own restaurant. One thing led to another, and today there are more than a thousand locations with a half-billion dollars in assets.
I liked BWW at the start. They served a decent wing at an honest price. The bar also featured a nice selection of beers. I’ll drink light beer if that’s all that is available but I prefer a real beer like a full-bodied ale or crisp pilsner. So I was overjoyed a few years ago when an outlet opened only a couple miles from our house. As part of the grand opening, BWW offered free wings for a year to the first 100 customers. As a result, a couple of friends and I pulled into their parking lot at 5 a.m. one cold winter morning. By 6 a.m. the coffee was gone, my toes numb and only my maniacal love of the spicy morsels kept me going. Greed played a role as well. By my calculations I could eat about four dozen wings a day, or about 12 dollars worth. Multiply that by 365 and the savings on groceries could top $4,000 a year.
So wait we did.
Along the way, we met a lot of interesting people, including a business major at the University of Iowa who was about to return for the winter semester at the institution that only draws the best and brightest. (Class of 2005 for me.) This Donald Trump-in-training also figured he could save a bundle on dorm meals with one of the golden passes. Finally, at 11 a.m., the manager opened the doors and one of two disappointments of the day hit: there were only 95 people in line. We could have foregone frostbite and hypothermia and simply showed up at 11 to claim the prize.
Then the other shoe dropped: free wings for a year meant each person got coupons for six free chicken wings with any $3 purchase. There were 52 coupons, each dated for one week of the year. The only thing that kept me from crying in my hot sauce was pity for the poor college kid, who didn’t even have the three bucks to get his lunch for the day.
It’s been said that if women were good at remembering pain, everyone would be an only child. Or, put another way, if Cubs fans remembered disappointment, Wrigley Field would sit vacant. I boycotted BWW for a while, but soon love of their product caused the memory of the insult to fade and I found myself there one night to take the wing-eating challenge. It works like this: eat 24 of the blazing hot wings in 10 minutes and you get your photo on the wall and a T-shirt.
It was a walk in the park for me. Maybe back in the day I used only my teeth to peel the meat from the bone and escape the peppery burn, but by the time of the contest my taste buds had long been scorched off. Ordering extra sauce on the side, I luxuriously sucked and licked the sauce off each one. With a full minute left on the clock I dunked the last wing in sauce, stripped the meat with one deft stroke and tossed the clean-as-a-whistle bone into the basket.
This time I was disappointed thrice.
First, they didn’t have film for the camera so no photo for me on the hall of fame. Second, I realized that I’d just ruined a perfectly good meal by scarfing it down so quickly. Third, they brought out the T-shirt. I was expecting something custom made and clever, but what I got was a cheap, generic, white tee adorned only with a Coors Light logo.
At this point, one of my friends told a joke that will forever be seared into my brain: do you know how sex in a canoe and Coors Light are the same? Answer: they’re both bleeping near water.
My shadow has not darkened a BWW door since.