To prepare you for the TBJ: No Season Required Chicago stop — and our special guest, Bill Wennington — I feel you need to be aware of the Beef Wennington, a Chicago-only McDonald’s burger that was based on Wennington and released during the Bulls’ 1998 title run.
If you were in that area as a kid, the Beef Wennington is one of your favorite things ever. If you’re not, it will be after you read these highlights from a Chicago Sun-Times article that has been unearthed thanks to some help from special Internet friends.
First, the introduction, which is amazing.
He walks into the locker room and is greeted with chants of “Beef! Beef!” from teammates.
He is to the Bulls what Lord Wellington was to the British. OK, maybe not. Still, they both have entrees named for them.
He is a seasoned player with seasoned taste buds.
He is backup center Bill Wennington, the Bulls’ burger king.
Somehow, this didn’t win the Pulitzer Prize for Best Writing Ever. Truly a shame.
Next, what the actual burger is, and what role Bill played in its creation.
The sandwich is a quarter-pound burger with American cheese, bacon, pickles, slivered onions, mustard and barbecue sauce on a sesame-seed bun.
“They had the basic ingredients,” Wennington said. “I liked it very much. I thought about adding tomato and lettuce to it but opted against it.”
Not a big fan of fruits and vegetables?
“It’s not that,” he said. “I just think the burger was good as it was. Marketing-wise, a lot of people don’t like tomatoes. I do like tomatoes, but I felt it would take away from the flavor of the barbecue sauce.”
Smart. Actually, double smart, since he’s taking in to account flavor profiles and marketing considerations. Totally nailed both aspects here, if you ask me.
Then there’s this, a very frank explanation as to why Bill Wennington, a backup center, got his own sandwich.
“I think that’s very interesting,” Wennington said. “Also, the name has a lot to do with it. Wennington and Wellington.
“A Beef Wellington is obviously a delicacy, and a lot of people like it. Beef Wennington’s going to be a burger. It’s a good burger.” [...]
“He’s a Bulls personality,” Thom Brown said. “He has a recognizable presence from commentary he does on radio. Chicago knows him pretty well, and the reputation he has is a good one. In addition to that, the name. We were trying to get a connection to Beef Wellington, and Wennington was pretty close.”
I assume this will be a chapter in Rosie O’Donnell’s next book, “Fast Food Executives Are Punny.”
You might be wondering, did Bill Wennington’s teammates like the Beef Wennington? Did they even eat it? Here’s your answer.
He also can wish for trainer Chip Schaefer to make his sandwich part of the team’s menu on trips.
“I think it would be hard to convince Chip,” Wennington said. “I might be able to convince Michael. Michael’s a big beef eater. As a matter of fact, I think Michael had a sandwich not long ago named after him, too – the McJordan Special. So I’m sure Michael would try them or have them if provoked.”
“It’s pretty good,” teammate Scott Burrell said of the Beef Wennington. “He did a good choice in his choice of meat. It’s like a quarter-pounder with bacon on top. It’s good. I don’t know how sales are going, but good choice of beef.”
“I need to get out and have one,” teammate Jud Buechler said. “I’m anxious to try the Beef Wennington, but I don’t get to go out very often. I’ll make a point of it.”
It is impossible to pick a best part of this section. Between “Michael’s a big beef eater,” “He did a good choice in his choice of meat,” and “I’m anxious to try the Beef Wennington, but I don’t get to go out very often” you have three amazing choices. All of those are pure gold. Pure. Gold.
One problem — McDonald’s released the Beef Wennington on the first day of Lent. Whoops.
“The first day that they were brought out was a Friday,” Wennington said. “I’m Catholic and couldn’t eat one. But I went out and brought some back here for the guys at the Berto Center who were able to eat them and who were still here. And everyone enjoyed them. I gave one to (coach) Phil (Jackson), and he said he enjoyed it. Our strength coaches, they all liked them. I’m getting very good feedback.”
Other than that little mishap, the Beef Wennington was perfect. It’s an ideal marriage of local hero, hilarious name and perfect pitchman. No one could sell the Beef Wennington as well as Bill Wennington, and not just because it is named after him. He’s a silly guy pitching a silly burger, which is so great.
I miss the Beef Wennington. Think I might make one tonight.