College football fans across the South experience many emotions over the course of an average fall Saturday—joy, anger, hope, despair, anticipation, plenty of anxiety. All these feelings, it seems, we channel into eating chicken wings. We consume defenseless drumettes and wingettes by the dozen. By the party tray. By the tailgate-bound truckload.
Just ask Bob Baumhower. The owner of nine sports-themed Baumhower’s Victory Grille locations across Alabama and a two-time all-SEC defensive tackle for the Crimson Tide, he knows a bit about the nexus of wings and college football.
“When I started my first little wings restaurant in Tuscaloosa in 1981, we practically had to give the things away,” he says. Today? “College football is huge for a business like ours, and that is 100 percent driven by wings.”
Baumhower discloses that his busiest locations each go through an astounding 1,000 to 1,500 pounds of wings on fall Saturdays. That’s 10,000 to 15,000 individual wings—five times more than on a typical weekday. (Figures on the correlating spike in Wet-Nap use couldn’t be obtained at press time.)
As for that other day of the weekend devoted to watching football, he says, “I know Sundays are big in Miami and New Orleans, but here in Alabama, Saturdays are king. The folks watching pro ball aren’t nearly as intense, or hungry, as the college football crowd.” (Big-city chicken wings may respectfully disagree.)
The Saturday wing frenzy also rules in Knoxville, Tennessee, where server Kayla Farmer has been trying to satisfy gameday crowds at Wings Xpress for four years. “During college football season, customers get here earlier, hang out watching TV longer, and bring more people with them,” she says. “And they order bigger, like fifty or one hundred wings at a time. Sometimes we can barely keep up.” (That might have a little something to do with their Vols gameday special of fifty wings for $25 until kickoff.) Such demand can drive sales of 12,000 wings on a fall Saturday, triple Wings Xpress’s weekday numbers.
“We can’t even request Saturdays off during the season,” Farmer adds. “Everybody has to be here until things calm down in late November.”
Whew. It sounds almost like the wrap-up of college football is a welcome thing for the South’s wings servers. And its chickens.