In the twilight of the sophomore season, the progression has begun.  What progression you ask?  Moving from a green Newbie, to a “Wannabe.”  When I first volunteered to write this Newbie article, many folks commented that even though they’ve cooked for 2, 5, 7 years, they still feel like newbies because they’re always learning something.  I can’t disagree with that statement.  I think each contest cooked, something registers, something is learned.  But someone who has cooked 6 or 10 or 30 contests?  I find it difficult to say that they are still having the Newbie experience.  
What begins to evolve is a “Wannabe”.  What’s that?  Pretty self explanatory, you want to be at the top of the list.  Top 5, reserve grand champs, grand champions, Royal invites, Jack draws all become items on the wish list.  When you start to sum up how many points you have accumulated for the year, regardless of how small that number may be, you have begun making the transition to a Wannabe.  I can only imagine that the Wannabe in each of us gets worse and worse each year…I wannabe in the Jack draw AGAIN, I wannabe a 7 contest winner, I wannabe a top ten team of the year in each category, I wannabe a repeat Jack winner. 
Wannabe’s are driven, constantly setting and striving to attain that next goal.  But with each goal getting loftier and loftier, the falls become a little harder, a little more painful. But the pain is short lived for Wannabes.  They understand how to bounce back, strap on the cookers, and get back at it as soon as they can.    
Wannabe’s don’t consternate for days prior to a contest the way a Newbie does.  They’ve figured out their system of checklists or notes or mental markers to ensure competition stuff is in order.  Wannabe’s don’t make broad changes to their product from contest to contest.  They instead implement changes in calculated sequences, monitoring how the adjustment plays with the judges.  Wannabe’s know average BBQ.  They know pretty much what their turn-in boxes look like before the meat goes in.  They don’t bother to listen to the CD at the cook’s meeting. And Wannabe’s have learned to respect, admire, and be happy for, the accomplishments and successes of fellow Wannabes out there. 
Some of those fellow Wannabes might have evolved their goals a little further than you.  That usually comes with experience and some success.  For whatever reason, you’ve put these folks in a category a bit higher than yourself.  They cook more often, they have had ongoing success, they seem to be unstoppable.  But you’ve shared stories with them.  You’ve gotten to know them.  They’re good people.  They share most everything, food, beverages, stories, and even advice on how to be a better cook.  All of a sudden, you’re cheering for them as they get their awards…again!  And you do so with genuine enthusiasm. 
Some of the Wannabes are folks you consider your equal.  They cook as much as you, cook on similar equipment, are funded like you are, do their homework like you do, win like you do.  There you are again, cheering for them as they get their calls on Saturday.  Better yet is the gratification you get from hearing them cheer for you as you walk up for your ribbon.   
So, enjoy the Newbie experience.  There’s comfort in knowing you’re still going about things with a streak of green.  That streak never really disappears; it just asymptotically merges into experience.   
So to the Wannabes out there who are going to the Royal Invite, the Jack, or are getting all the calls you set out to get…congratulations.  There’s a lot of us who “wannabe” in your shoes. 
Joey Mac