• Ms. Freak

An epic failure


“It looks like a pile of dog $#!+.”


Not exactly what you want to hear from your teammate when you have just 3 minutes left to get your p❤️​rk box to the judges tent. At that moment, my heart started pounding and my head was spinning.


Then, a frantic blur of activity. A hot mess of p❤️rk parts, knives, sauce and strong language. And a very bruised ego -- mine.


Somehow I made turn-in, but man, I knew I had screwed up. We still had one more category left, and was I feeling pretty deflated. Poor brisket didn’t have a chance after that p❤️rk $#!+-show!


So what happened?


  1. The cook had actually gone pretty well

  2. We had decent p❤️rk for the box, but no money muscle

  3. I was uneasy going into boxing

  4. We weren’t operating as a cohesive team

  5. Mr. Freak abandoned ship

  6. I built the box without a clear plan

  7. The more I tried to fix it, the worse it got

  8. The tension and pressure was building and about to blow

  9. That box got away from me

  10. The judges did their jobs


I didn’t realize it at the time, but we had committed a cardinal sin -- we’d given up on the box.


Those words -- “it looks like dog $#!+” -- stung. They seemed awfully harsh at the time, especially coming from Mr. Freak.


Heading to awards, I knew we’d take a hit on appearance, but thought we’d be OK on taste and tenderness. Then Mr. Freak reminded me that even the most diligent judges can’t help but eat with their eyes, and that the first impression tells your brain what kind of experience to expect.


We started off strong with a couple of great calls -- 3rd place chicken and 3rd place ribs. People were high-fiving us left and right. But we knew. P❤️rk was going to kill us.


And it did. We ended up with our worst category showing ever -- 38th place out of 40. That, combined with 20th in brisket, dragged us down to 10th place overall.


Don’t get me wrong, any day with a top-10 finish is a great day. But we knew we’d blown an opportunity to finish a lot higher.  


It had happened again. P❤️rk got the best of us. I was completely dejected.


I was still pretty ticked off, but knew we couldn’t stay there. We needed to fix this problem once and for all. So we spent the 3-hour drive home documenting a new p❤️rk boxing process, all the way down to where we’re standing as we execute all 17 steps.   


That exercise helped us go into our next competition with a great attitude because we had a new system that we were totally confident in.


And it worked! Not only was p❤️rk boxing a more calm and enjoyable experience, we had gained efficiencies that saved precious minutes and helped ensure we ended up with the best stuff in the box.


We ended up with a great p❤️rk call that helped make Smoke Freaks the Grand Champions at the Hog Capital BBQ Challenge in Kewanee, IL that day.


I was happy with our cook and thrilled with the outcome, but I knew the real win was that we had succeeded in using our epic failure as the motivation to make a huge improvement in our operation.


I’m not about to claim victory over p❤️rk, but I know we’re a lot less likely to blow it at the finish line now.


Freak ON!