Ken Fox wrote:Granted, there are good reasons why the top cafes would choose to compete with each other than to raise the quality of their competition in their surrounding areas. Granted, there are all sorts of peripheral benefits accruing to the coffee business community for leaving these barista competitions as currently structured. This does not mean that this current structure benefits us, the home baristas, for whom this website is named. This does not mean that the current structure benefits the baristas much either. They might well be better off with a competition structured to widen the base, since by widening the base there will be more potential employers for them, which can only improve their job situations and wages, which of course further strengthens the argument that the current structure benefits the industry more than any other group.
The problem with that is that head to head competition pushes in the other direction. If the competition catches on, people devote more resources to it, and it takes more and more to win. Thus the group of people who can join in, with even a prayer of success, becomes ever more limited. The payoff that remains is that the competitions become arenas for the state of the art; and people pay attention and try to emulate. As I said, drinking shots pulled by the stars of these competitions has certainly been a wakeup call for me, and started me scrambling to improve my home espresso.
Instead of widening participation at these national level events, it may be better to widen the group of people paying attention:
Golf, tennis, bridge and a few other sports feature a very deep hierarchy of competition, so that people can work their way up from neighborhood level events to the nationals. The top levels are populated by pros; but everyone gets a chance to try and to rub shoulders. I don't know about golf, but most of these sports have ranking systems too, so one can slowly work up ones ranking by winning in enough local and regional events, thereby qualifying for the higher reaches. Rather than making the current USBC and regionals less intense, one could add a few tournament layers underneath, held frequently at local roasters or equipment dealers, where people can come, pay their BGA dues (even amateurs), try their hands, and add a few points to their BGA ratings.
If such a system garners participants in the thousands, rather than the hundreds, it might even make a dent in San Diego