After a couple of weeks of re-runs, the series is back with a new episode, and back with a vengence. This time out we're taken to the World Series of Barbecue -- The American Royal Invitational in Kansas City, Missouri.
For those unfamiliar, "The Royal" is the most competitive contest on the circuit. Well, it's actually two contests. The invitational is held first. It's an invitational because only those who have won a state championship are invited. This means that every team there (124 in 2009) are champions. The second contest is "The Open" where anyone who can pony up the entry fee and make it there can compete. We'll see the open next week.
There are two aspects of this episode that make it stand out to me as a fellow competitor. First, Johnny Trigg exemplified what the true spirit of competitive barbecue is really about. He took Paul Petersen under his wing for some one-on-one instruction. This is what the vast majority of we competitors do behind the scenes on an almost daily basis -- help others get better. It's something that I'd venture to say rarely, if ever, happens in other competitive ventures. We take joy in "giving back" and helping the new guys be competitive.
This spirit of sportsmanship and willingness to help was shown in sharp contrast to our familiar "Man In Black", who took the opportunity (actually two) to slam Chris Lilly and his considerable accomplishments in competition. He paints Chris as a has-been who is riding on old victories. To Chris' great credit, he was the consummate gentleman and stayed on the high road.
The second thing that stood out was how Tuffy masterfully dealt with a couple of mistakes. I think he made a great point in saying that (paraphrasing) sometimes the difference in the outcome is how one deals with adversity. This will certainly ring true with anyone who has had something go south on them in the heat of the competition. It reminded me very much of the time last season when my chicken slid off the grate and plummeted into my fire about an hour before turn-ins. You just fix it as best you can and hope for the best.
I feel this episode was the best so far in showing what really happens in competition. There are some tremendous pointers given for those who pay close attention and heed Johnny's advice to take good notes.