For those of us that compete to win - that's fun! Sure we grouse and whine when we don't place but we go to COMPETE and win. Socializing is secondary. We're there to compete and get to know other cooks and competitors.
You say, "but what fun is going balls-to-the-wall and only care about winning?" I ask why would you go balls-to-the-wall and NOT care about winning? If you just want to drink beer and cook some que do it in your backyard or come to a Bash! That's where the party and beer comes in.
My bad - not intended to offend anybody. Sure, I'd LOVE to win Grand Champion at American Royal or Lenexa someday - I'm not a born loser who loves to pay good money to get stomped!!! It's been my experience in the events that I attended in the past that there is a bunch of partying going on and the Q is somewhat secondary (not totally, and obviously I'm not hanging out with the top level teams).
I appreciate everyone's offers to hang out with your teams and learn the ropes. I may take one or two of you up on it in the future. I think at this point I'm going to go to a couple of local events (especially after the party Friday nite and early Saturday morning) and plan on entereing one or two competitions in Shawnee, Emporia, and/or Paola in the coming months.
Now.... How do I convince my wife I NEED a Lang Model 84 for this new extension to my hobby!?! :D Wonder if I could slip a quick run down to Georgia during a Sunday drive! :o
Thanks again for everyone's advice. My apologies if I stepped on any toes.