Glorious gluttony Bainbridge's 'Snack Jack' works up appetite for Philadelphia's Wing Bowl on Friday
BY CINDY STAUFFER, Staff Writer
"Snack Jack" Diamond will stand in front of an audience of 20,000 people Friday and face down a familiar foe.
A plate of chicken wings.
The 52-year-old Bainbridge man will try to chew his way to the top of Wing Bowl 21, a raucous festival that attracts thousands of spectators, dozens of babes known as Wingettes and 28 competitors to the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
A competitive eater, Diamond knows wings (106 wings in 28 minutes, sixth place in Wing Bowl 18).
He also knows:
n Lebanon bologna sandwiches (nine in five minutes, Lebanon Bologna Fest, Lebanon).
n Pizza (16-inch, 11-topping pizza in 22 minutes and 19 seconds, Slugger's Pizzeria, Lancaster).
n Burgers (Triple Decker Devil Burger, 8 pounds of meat, under one hour, Country Club Tavern, Cape May Court House, N.J.).
n Soup (10 cans of Campbell's wonton soup, including 200 won-tons, in two minutes, five seconds, Philadelphia).
You name it, Diamond has scarfed it, alongside other eaters with nicknames such as "Large Todd," "Ukraine Train" and "Oink Oink."
A door installer by day, married and father of two grown daughters, Diamond jumped into the competitive eating world in 2010.
"It was sort of a bucket list thing," said the Bucks County native, who had attended and enjoyed the Wing Bowl with his buddies, sitting in the spectator section.
Friday, Diamond's buddies will be in his official "entourage" and he will enter the bowl on a float decorated with American flags. In a choreographed event that would be very comfortable on a professional wrestling stage, Diamond has been cast as a "villain" who scams his way into the competition.
"I have no problem with that," he said, laughing.
Hopefuls can punch their ticket for the bowl by doing a qualifying stunt broadcast on Philadelphia's SportsRadio 94WIP, the event's sponsor.
Diamond slurped down the wonton soup to make it into his first Wing Bowl in 2010. He also successfully completed stunts in 2012 (five giant whoopie pies in about four minutes) and this year (16 hot dogs in two minutes).
He tried in 2011 but did not make it, a defeat he chalks up to "poor chicken choice." Slippery dark meat good, chewy white meat bad, he learned the hard way.
The Wing Bowl awards top prizes of $20,000 and a new SUV. Diamond doesn't expect to win, given that last year's champ, Takeru Kobayashi, ate 337 wings to win and holds several Guinness World Book records for consuming everything from Twinkies to meatballs.
To be honest, he hasn't scored big in other contests either. His biggest take-home was $250 he won in a pizza-eating contest in Harrisburg.
That hasn't deterred Diamond, who also has dabbled in competitive eating's oddball cousin, restaurant challenges (a 12-scoop ice cream sundae with pineapple sauce, strawberry sauce, chopped nuts, whipped cream, cherry and rainbow sprinkles, 15 minutes and 8 seconds, Scoops Ice Cream and Grille, Mountville).
Along the way, he has twice suffered what the competitive eating world delicately refers to as a "reversal of fortune" and what the Wing Bowl bluntly outlaws ("If you heave, you leave").
The first time was at a french-fry-eating contest in Wildwood, N.J. (three pounds in seven minutes).
The second was during Jake Sandwich Board's "5-Pound Philly Challenge" (steak sandwich, four soft pretzels, a box of Tastykake butterscotch krimpets, 24 Goldenberg Peanut Chews and a cherry soda).
"I think it was the cherry soda, quite honestly," he said, with just a twinge of regret.
He now knows his strengths -- pizza and hot dogs are good but "bread-y" things, not so good.
And while he doesn't train or practice, he has learned the tricks of the trade.
Dunk food in water to help lubricate and make it good down easier. Take little bites and swallow them whole, without chewing.
Also, watch what you eat. At 5 feet, 10 inches, Diamond weighed up to 240 pounds but is down to 205, a feat he attributes to eating eight ounces of "whatever" every three hours, anything from carrot sticks to turkey lunchmeat.
He knows not everyone gets the allure of competitive eating. His wife, for one, doesn't attend his events and thinks the whole thing is a bit ridiculous.
Diamond enjoys the zany atmosphere and the fraternity of folks he sees at events.
"I know some people scratch their heads," he said. "I just like to have some fun."