July 30, 2001

Volume 1

Issue 8

Ray's Comments



I have to apologize to anyone who was expecting to see a new comment from me last Monday.   I wrote one but it was boring, so I trashed it.  Besides, I have been thinking about something for a long time and I wanted to share it with you.  I needed more time to think and write, so this seemed like a good time to do it.  I also want your feedback, on my ideas.  Please email me your comments about this article. 

You see I am really bothered by the comment “BBQ contests will never be a spectator sport.”  Why can’t these contests draw huge crowds?  To answer this question we have to examine how the general public views these events.  

I have paid a lot of attention to the spectators at BBQ contests over the last few years.  One year, at the American Royal contest in K.C., I did a lot of “observing of the public.”  I hung around he information booth near the main entrance and listened to what people were talking about.  I hung around so long that I am sure some people thought I was some weirdo or something.  What did I learn?  They were pissed.  They were mad because they had fought their way through a huge traffic jam, paid to get in and didn’t get anything to eat.  Sure, there were some food vendors, like at a carnival.  Then there was the “to loud” country music band blasting away.  But, something was missing and it wasn’t just the food. 

At other contests, that were smaller, I have seen the spectators at these events come and go.  These spectators didn’t know anyone competing and none of the contestants would talk to them.  I know that all the contestants were busy.  The fact is, that the public who visit one of these events don’t hang around long because there’s nothing to keep them there.  They didn’t know what is going at the contest. There isn’t anybody to tell them what’s going on and there is no food unless you want the stuff the vendors are selling. 

After the spectators went home they watched the evening news. At the contest they had seen a television cameraman taking pictures.  Maybe if they watched the evening news they could learn more about the contest. As it turns out there isn’t anything on the evening news about the contest.  You see the cameraman didn’t know what was going on either.  As a result the cameraman wasn’t able to tell the producer what was going on, so the producer thought there wasn’t anything the public would be interested in.  

I know there are a lot of people who don’t want anything to change at these contests.  I also know that there are a lot of people who would like to see the public get more involved in the contests.  If this happens then the media would pay more attention.  With more press coverage we would have more interest by corporate sponsors.  This could generate big money coming into the contests. 

The Future 

Who knows what could happen next, but lets think big for a moment.  Lets take a look into the future.  It’s now the year 2003 and BBQ is big business.  There are over 1,000 contests being held all over the country.  There are 20 major professional money events being held this year.  The average prize money is $500,000 per event.  There are a couple hundred professional BBQ teams competing in the contests of year 2003.  All the pro teams have logos of the corporate sponsors on their equipment and clothes.  The big professional contests draw an average of 50,000 spectators to each event.  To top it all off Food TV has a weekly program called the “Iron Chefs of BBQ.  It’s a smash hit and is being broadcast all over the world.  The movie “BBQ Crazy” is a big box office hit.  It’s the story of the adventures of two men and a woman who all compete separately in contests.  The movie is centered on the “Big National Contest” and what they will do to win. 

Back to today

Well maybe I am getting a bit carried away and some of you might think the smoke has affected my brain.  However, I think some of this is possible.  To move things forward I think some positive steps should be taken now to draw the public in.  There are a lot of things we could do to make the contest more interesting.  I have several ideas and they won’t end with this edition of “Ray’s Comments.”  I will share them with all of you if you don’t think I’m too crazy. 

You see deep down inside I am an “idea guy.’  I create things and I am a promoter.  Hell, if I were younger I would set my goal to be the “Don King of BBQ.”  Or I would try to turn BBQ into something like the world wrestling deal. 

To look at all of this from a more practical standpoint the first thing I would do if I could change things is to make the big contests more interesting to the general public.  I propose the complying and printing of a program to be sold to the spectators at the contests.  “You can’t tell what’s going on without a program.”  This program would be printed just days before each events and would contain such things as:

·         A brief history of BBQ

·         A complete list of the major events around the country.

·         A listing of the teams that are competing in that contest.  This listing would have “human interest” information about each team.  This information could contain the names of the team members, how the team was formed.  There could be pictures of the teams, contact information and past winning records of the teams.  The bookies are going to need this information someday when there is betting on these contests in Las Vegas.

·         A list of the prize money, won that year by the more successful teams

·         The contests could charge $5.00 or more for this “Contest Guide.”  The “Contest Guide” would contain corporate advertising.

·         There would be a section on judging and an explanation on what happens at a contest.

Next I would set up tours of the contest from a central starting point and leaving every fifteen minutes or so.  These tour guides would take small groups (ten people) around the contest and point out to the group what was going on.  Different BBQ celebrities could be introduced to the groups during the tour.  The spectators could keep notes in the “Contest Guides” they had just purchased.  My vision of these “tour leaders” who would conduct the tours is as follows: As you guide the group around the contest you would point out to the group each team you pass.  You would inform the group about what was happening at the time.  The tour leader could talk about the different equipment each team is using and other information like the cost of the equipment etc.  There are a lot of things these tour leaders could talk about and it wouldn’t take a lot to train each one of them.  Just take them on a tour and have them take notes.  

When these tours end I would somehow find a way for the spectators to get a small sample of good BBQ.  It could be a small sample plate with one rib, chicken, brisket, and pulled pork.  You could have samples of different sauces supplied by the manufactures.  You could give them a book of coupons on BBQ items. 

Then at the end of the tour I would give them tickets to see a video with even more information.  Maybe sell the video to them. The video might trace the creation of a BBQ team to winning the big bucks. The video is about 45 minutes long. 

I would cut down on the time it takes to present the awards.  I would make the awards presentation a big deal.  There would be fireworks, music, lights etc. I also would drag as many politicians and famous people into these major contests as possible.  Politicians want to be seen by the public.  The public wants to see famous people and now these contest start making the evening news around the country.  

Well, that’s just part of my vision.  I hope you find this stimulating.  I also hope you email me with your suggestions on these proposals.  Next week I will have a list of the “best email” from everyone about your suggestions on these ideas.  If all goes well we will, from time to time, continue the discussion and maybe make something happen.  Or maybe, this will be the last you hear from me about this subject. 

Ray Basso

Copyright 2001
Ray Basso

Past Comments from Ray:
Review on the Grand Barbecue book and companion video
My Grandfather and his watch 
Top Secret Rib Rub Review
The Lake

The 100,000 message to the BBQ Forum

Some things I like

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