WING BOWL's key component may be a piece of chicken, but a duck is a much better poultry metaphor for the testosterone-fueled annual bacchanal staged by sports-gabber WIP-FM (94.1).

That's because while everything will likely go as smoothly as a duck gliding across a pond - if you ignore the audience's booze-fueled grabbling, puking and general misbehavior - just beneath the surface, parts will be moving constantly to make things look effortless.

Friday's Wing Bowl 23 at the Wells Fargo Center will be the result of a year's worth of planning and plotting by about a half-dozen WIP staffers charged with staging what has become a civic touchstone of near-mythic status.

Taking the lead every year are Andy Bloom, the station's operations manager, and Cynthia Webster, who oversees promotional efforts. Planning begins shortly after a champion is crowned.

"That following week," explained Webster, "we [will] compile what we liked, what we didn't like, what we want to change. All throughout the year, we're thinking about things."

Strategizing kicks into high gear at the end of the summer.

"The first serious conversations are right around Labor Day," said Bloom. "We kind of pick a theme by then, and by October, we're into 'heavy' mode."

There's a theme, you say?


There's even a script.

More on that in a minute.

Controlling the controllables

Melding two distinct - and at times opposing - aspects of Wing Bowl is Job 1 for those behind the scenes.

"The real concern for us is, we're trying to do two different things at the same time," offered Bloom. With 94WIP Morning Show guys Angelo Cataldi and Al Morganti at the helm, "we're trying to do a radio broadcast and, at the same time, we're trying to do a stage show."

"A big stage show for 20,000 people doesn't necessarily make a good radio show. And a good radio show doesn't necessarily make a good show in front of [20,000 people]. So we have to reconcile the two ...

"Then we have to make sure what we can control works. We have to make sure that our audio [for the broadcast] works; that our PA [system] works. We have to make sure both the stage show and the radio run smoothly. Controlling the controllables - the stage show and radio show - is tricky."

As for those uncontrollables, they aren't just in the audience. "We have a group of eaters and Wingettes who don't work for us, who aren't used to being in front of 20,000 people, who aren't always 'all there,' " Bloom said.

Broadway on Broad St.

Then there's that theme - more of a story line, really.

This year's, Bloom said, will focus on 2014 record-setting champ (363 wings) Molly Schuyler and her return to defend her title.

"We have what we're referring to as a 'mystery man,' " Bloom said. "We have evidence he has beaten her in a prior competition."

Wing Bowl, Bloom said - and he wasn't kidding - is "the equivalent of a Broadway production." Hence the script, a play-by-play of what happens when, written by morning show co-host and voice of reason Rhea Hughes.

"Everything," Bloom insisted, "is down to the second."

That includes commercial breaks, the entrances of the 31 contestants and the celebrity appearances. (This year's guests include Natalie DiDonato, of "Mob Wives" fame; Flyers luminary Bernie Parent; Philly boxing titan Bernard Hopkins; and former WWE wrestling star turned best-selling author and stand-up comic Mick Foley. Eagles long-snapper Jon Dorenbos is the event's honorary "commissioner.")

The only thing not predetermined is the winner.

"That," emphasized Bloom, "is not scripted."

There are always last-minute additions and revisions, including those based on current events.

" 'Chris Christie' and 'Jerry Jones' will be making an appearance," said Bloom, referring to the sickening (to Eagles fans) bromance between New Jersey's governor and the owner of the hated Dallas Cowboys.

"A month ago, that was not part of what we planned. That organically grew into the story line based on Philadelphia sports."

The segment "is going to be one of the bring-the-house-down moments of Wing Bowl 23," Bloom promised.

All eyes on us

Wing Bowl reverberates well beyond the realm of WIP and its audience.

"It's one of the most highly anticipated events in [the Wells Fargo Center]," said Ike Richman, vice president of public relations for arena owner Comcast-Spectacor. "We love it. It's fun. It's one of those events that gets national attention for the venue."

Wing Bowl is unique because it's the only local, scheduled event that's covered live by all four of the region's TV news operations, Richman noted. "It is a signature event because it's the only one of its kind anywhere in the world, not just at [the arena]. You couldn't replicate this."

And when this year's champ is named, that noise you hear emanating from South Philly will be the collective sigh of relief by those who staged the midwinter celebration of gluttony and lust.

"We all high-five," said Webster. "The minute that crown goes on the winner and the confetti is thrown, it's like, 'Oh, my God! We made it again!' "