Adding some flavor to Surf and Turf Kickoff Classic

Something seems to be missing from the inaugural Surf and Turf Kickoff Classic, but I just can’t seem to put my finger on it … oh, that’s it, the actual surf and turf.

I understand what organizers are shooting for in their catchy but somewhat misleading title. The beach has the surf, the football field has the turf. It’s got a nice ring to it.

But put up a sign that says “Surf and Turf” in Myrtle Beach during the summer time and some hungry folks are going to show up for a different kind of game. Where’s the beef and the sea bass?

So I’ve been thinking (I do that a lot about food), what better way to hold a true Surf and Turf Kickoff Classic than by serving some real surf and turf at the games?

Barbeque cookoffs have taken off nationally in recent years (it even has its own TV show, BBQ Pitmasters) and there’s no shortage of local seafood in the summer.

Imagine this tailgate party: A parking lot filled with grills (the big kind that people pull behind trucks) giving off that distinct aroma of smoked hickory and pig, and steam kettles filled to the brim with fresh, local seafood.

On one side you have the surf – steamed oysters, boiled shrimp, fried grouper and pick-your-own crabs – while the other side lined with whole smoked hogs, pulled pork, beef ribs and hot pork rinds.

The smell alone would attract thousands. The football games would be a bonus. But put an oyster roast and pig-pickin’ with the pigskin and you’ve got an unbeatable combination.

Like the football games, the cooking can be a contest. The Grand Strand could draw in some of the top BBQ teams in the nation, and share our seafood with them.

And the competition would heat up on and off the gridiron. Just as organizers plan to pit N.C. teams vs. S.C. teams in 2013, it’s also a chance to pit N.C. BBQ vs. S.C. BBQ head to head (or shoulder to shoulder). It’s vinegar-based vs. mustard-based, may the best sauce win.

And future events call for Carolina teams to face the best programs in the nation. It’s also a chance to put our smoked pig up against Texas’ BBQ beef, Memphis’ pork ribs, Louisiana’s BBQ shrimp. Is it raining or am I salivating on my keyboard?

The nation’s top BBQ teams are already coming to town the next weekend for the Labor Day Beach, Boogie and BBQ. This would give the teams a chance to spend the week on the Strand. They need vacations too, although some would argue traveling the country and cooking pigs for prize money is a vacation in itself.

Yes, the pregame Surf and Turf Cookoff might hurt the concession stands inside Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium, but that’s chump change compared to haul vendors will bring in outside the gates. Better to take a piece of that pie than try to make up the difference by selling hot dogs and Snickers bars.

If organized properly, the chance for a perfect marriage exists between the grub and the gridiron games. Put two good events together and you get a great one.

So what do I want for coming up with the best sports marketing idea this side of ESPN? A front-row seat to the games and a job as a BBQ and seafood judge will do.

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