Sporting Kansas City unveiled a smoked tequila-blackberry brisket sandwich at July's MLS All-Star Game (it's still available at Sporting Park) and now sits at first place in the Eastern Conference. Coincidence? Probably. But this team loves its barbecue. Recall that, back in January, SportsBusiness Journal reported that Matt Besler, Graham Zusi and Jimmy Nielsen delivered a barbecue lunch to Ivy Funds, a move that helped seal the Overland Park investment-management company's decision to sponsor Sporting's jerseys for the next five years.
Even the absence of barbecue can be a winning formula. Dontari Poe, the Chiefs' first-round pick in 2012, has been looking unstoppable at practice, a result of dropping 20 pounds from giving up - you guessed it - barbecue.
Town Topic fries were procured to be dredged through both sauces. We kept score.
Game time: The recipe for the Boys Grow barbecue sauce was developed by the teenage participants, as were the previously released salsa and ketchup. It includes some of the jalapeños and tomatoes grown on the Boys Grow garden plot.
The orange-red sauce (a color born of orange juice concentrate and turmeric) flies out like water from a broken fire hydrant. With garlic powder and two types of vinegar, the stuff delivers echoes of Gates.
"There's a little tang," said a staffer, who confessed to eating baby carrots with barbecue sauce at lunch.
OK, so he hates ranch dressing, and that's decidedly un-Midwestern, but his comment was met with nods. People are busy sneaking more fries.
"It looks spicy, but there was just good heat at the end," another taster said.
Box score: solid double. The kids are all right.
Game time: One tester appreciated seeing a bottle filled all the way to the top. Also going for it (depending on your body chemistry): It's gluten-free. But things go downhill from there. This sauce is the liquid embodiment of the slugger: It's full of tomato paste (the second ingredient listed) and cornstarch. As a tester noted, it's "thick like Billy."
"It's just paste," another tester said, shaking his head. He'd expected a fastball and instead got a curve at the knees.
The sauce, distributed by Zarda, has "classic Zarda seasoning," according to the label, but it fails to capture a dominant note: sweet, salty or spicy.
"This is really boring," one taster complained. "I will not be eating this a ton."
Box score: swing and a miss.