Consider: Chicken Wings and Footballs
Who is ready for The Big Game?
With The Big Game this weekend, we wanted to dig into something topical. Turns out there are some amazing topics, and we chose two of our favourites. Before we dig in, let’s consider the name itself. Why Bowl? It was named using the convention of the Rose Bowl, which played at the Rose Bowl, which is shaped like a bowl. So why do we refer to it as the Big Game throughout this newsletter? The NFL owns the trademark to “The Super Bowl” and pursues it aggressively.
When we started digging into two essential parts of The Big Game experience I noticed that they had something in common. They were both stories of savvy operators using design and innovation to take waste and convert it into high value consumer staples.
The apocryphal origin story of chicken wings rivals that of the Caesar Salad. As the story goes, in 1964, Teressa Bellissimo, owner of the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY, ordered a case of chicken wings by accident. She had meant to order chicken necks, an ingredient in the bar’s spaghetti sauce. As opposed to returning the wings, her husband encouraged her to own her mistake and figure out something to do with them.
The rest of the story is summarized by Bellissimo’s son, Dominic, in her obituary:
“The true story is that I was tending bar, and a bunch of my friends were drinking,'' Mr. Bellissimo, who now operates the restaurant, said yesterday. ''My mother, God rest her soul, was in the kitchen. I said to my father, 'Let's have some hors d'oeuvres.' Dad said: 'They're all Catholic boys. They don't eat meat on Friday.’”
'Come Up With Something'
Dominic reminded his father that it would soon be Saturday. And, he recalled, ''Dad told mother to come up with something.''
Mrs. Bellissimo took some chicken wings, deep-fried them, doused them with hot sauce and served them with blue-cheese dressing and celery.
She also was the first to separate the wings into two parts: drum and flat. It is the official stance of Considered that drums and flats are the drastically inferior way to consume chicken wings. The whole wing, served at places like the Rebel House in Toronto, is infinitely messier and tastier. Better yet, invite me to your house and I will bring my famous Jerk Wings.
Calvin Trillian did the subject more justice than I ever could. He has a great quote from Frank Bellissimo: “Anybody can sell steak, but if you can sell odds and ends of one thing or another, then you’re doing something.”
The “pigskin” that the players will be throwing around during The Big Game also has a history worth considering.
Schwarzschild and Sulzberger Co. were one of the leading meatpackers of their time. The New York Times described them as “leading beef dealers.” As an aside, when do you think we all stopped having jobs that we could easily describe to other people? Beef dealer is pretty clear. Founder of a boutique consultancy with six side gigs… not so much.
Schwarzschild and Sulzberger realized that they could extract value from the manufacturing by-products of their beef (early upcycling!), so they created Ashland Manufacturing. Early products included violin strings, tennis racket strings and surgical sutures. These “gut” strings were made by drying and twisting animal intestines, often sheep guts. From there, Ashland expanded into rackets and baseball shoes. After hiring Thomas E. Wilson (who Wilson sporting goods came to be named after) to run Ashland in 1917, they began seriously innovating in the sports equipment space.
Working closely with athletes like Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne (AAAAMAZING KNAME), Wilson developed the double walled football. This innovation reshaped the game (literally). Traditional footballs were much more rounded and harder to throw/pass. The new ball led to the development of the modern passing game. The modern Wilson official NFL football is named “The Duke” after former NY Giant owner Wellington Mara. When named Wellington, you only have two nickname choices: The Duke or Beef.
Wilson bought the Ohio-Kentucky Manufacturing plant located in Ada, Ohio, in 1955 and has been manufacturing footballs there, by hand, ever since. Wilson, the company, has not faired as well as its products. In the 1970’s it was bought by Pepsi (weird?) to aid their association with sporting pursuits. They broke the company into multiple divisions and the sporting goods business changed hands a couple of times until landing with the Amer Group of Finland. Amer was purchased in 2018 by the Chinese sporting conglomerate Anta sports, with the participation of Lululemon founder Chip Wilson. Amer now owns everything from Solomon Sports to Arcteryx to Louisville Slugger to Wilson and many more. For all my “dead bird” fans out there, did you know Arcteryx has not been Canadian owned since 2002? They were bought by Solomon for $30M.
PS: “What time is the Super Bowl?”
‘What time is the Super Bowl’ is one of the most legendary internet questions. Beginning in 2011, Craig Kanalley, a writer at the Huffington Post noticed a number of trending queries around when the Super Bowl would air. He then authored one of the most famous posts in the site history. Designed to best optimize for web traffic, it read in its entirety:
Are you wondering, "what time does the Superbowl start?"
It's a common search query, as is "what time is the super bowl 2011," "superbowl time" and "superbowl kickoff time 2011," according to Google Trends the evening before the Super Bowl.
It's easily answered too. Super Bowl 2011 will take place on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011, at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time and 3:30 p.m. Pacific Time.
Notice the use of superbowl (incorrect) and Super Bowl (correct) to capture even the fattest finger typist.
By 2014, What Time is the Super Bowl? had become a meme and in an effort to differentiate, Gawker created the chart below: