Friday, May 1, 2099

T-E-A-M Teeeeeeeam Drink!

T-E-A-M Teeeeeeeam Drink!

(Tim's the devil)

You have stumbled across the Home Page of Surfin' Chili, arguably one of the greatest teams ever to compete in the NASA/JSC chili cookoffs in the 1990's. Coming soon: more pictures of drunks in action.

DISCLAIMER: Contrary to what you might have read elsewhere, Surfin' Chili is not THE "official NASA chili cookoff team" (Yahoo! screwed up our listing ages ago). We are, however, one of the teams that competes in one of the NASA-sponsored cookoffs in Houston. Just wanted to make that clear.

Surfin' Chili came into existence one drunken night in the Spring of 1990. According to Tim Griffiths, one of the team's founding members, "I think it was just one of those things where we were drinking for team name inspiration, and somebody said, 'What the hell, let's call ourselves Surfin' Chili.'" Like most stupid names, it stuck. We took as a mascot a chili pepper surfing backwards on a wave. (Well, no one really noticed it until it was too late, anyway.) And a legend was born.

Tim also supplied us with the team cheers (see top of page). "I brought the cheer 'T-E-A-M TEEEEEEEAM DRINK' with me from PA. We began doing it at college during games of Pass Out. Anytime someone landed on All Drink, the cheer would ring out. I employed it often (especially at softball games). Hence that's why all of our softball teams were named Team Drink. It may have been there, or a party somewhere, but after a Team Drink cheer, someone said 'Tim's the Devil' and it stuck. So no matter when or where the cheer took place, someone always had to state 'Tim's the devil' after a cheer."

The Surfin' Chili FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

  1. Who is SURFIN' CHILI?

    SURFIN' CHILI is a conglomeration of many JSC organizations and our friends from outside JSC. Many different directorates are represented: Mission Operations (DT, DM, DX), International Space Station Program Office (OM, OC), Engineering (EC, ES), Flight Crew Operations (CB), Space and Life Sciences (SA), Shuttle Program Office (MV) and Financial (LI) all have SURFIN' CHILI team representation. As for companies represented we have NASA, United Space Alliance (USA), Boeing, Tech Trans International (TTI), and others outside the JSC community. We truly represent cooperation and coordination of all areas of JSC and support the community outreach!

  2. Who makes those fine SURFIN' CHILI shirts?

    One of the primary events each year is the SURFIN' CHILI tie-dye party, where we make our own shirts. We are not only smart (shown by working at NASA), but creative too.

  3. Who sponsors SURFIN' CHILI?

    WE DO! Unlike many newer teams, SURFIN' CHILI has been around since 1990. We have no corporate sponsorship, no department slush fund, and we fund all events by contribution. We are doing this for the love of the cookoff and it keeps our voice free and untainted!

  4. That's a cool booth, how did you get it like that?

    Thank you. SURFIN' CHILI has the only approved 2-story booth in the cookoff. Any future 2-story booths require prior approval. We like to call that the SURFIN' CHILI RULE. (Another example of excellent NASA engineering talent.)

  5. Have any other rules been passed at a chili cookoff based on what Surfin' Chili did?

    Yes, back in 1991 we had our "Scud Missile" water balloon launcher at the Rockwell chili cookoff. For the 1992 cookoff, they included a rule which stated: "No object may be propelled through the air or on the ground that could cause a hazard to the team cooking areas, participants, or the public. This includes, but is not limited to, activities such as "Scud" water balloon strikes that occurred at last year's cookoff."

  6. How does SURFIN' CHILI do in the games?

    SURFIN' CHILI won Space Trivia 4 years in a row, unprecedented in the history of the cookoff! We always participate in every game and often place in all of them: 23 game ribbons since 1990; 9 timeShowmanship trophy winners. SURFIN' CHILI skits are always entertaining and cover the range of recent NASA and world events.

  7. What's your special propaganda?

    SURFIN' CHILI is a team of trendsetters - we were the first team to have tie-dye shirts (1991), first with a web page (1996), first Jell-O Shot Twister games (1997), first "Burma-shave" signs (1998), first to make a 2-story booth with Mardi gras beads from the balcony (2000), first to give out tattoos (2001), first Jell-O Delivery System (JDS), to aid in the distribution of Jell-O shots. Look for our tattoo parlor, clever flyers, eye catching shirts (you can always find the tie-dyes), and of course our energetic team members.

  8. So why does SURFIN' CHILI deserve showmanship trophy?

    SURFIN' CHILI is a true representation of what the cook-off is all about. Teamwork, Fair play, Enthusiasm, Community Involvement, Multi-division interaction, Good clean fun, and of course chili. And we Lei'd the judges!

  9. What's the deal with a surfing chili pepper, where did that come from?

    Surfin' Chili came into existence one drunken night in the Spring of 1990. It was just one of those things where we were drinking for team name inspiration, and somebody said, "What the hell, let's call ourselves Surfin' Chili." Like most stupid names, it stuck. We took as a mascot a chili pepper surfing backwards on a wave - it wasn't supposed to be backwards, but no one noticed it until it was too late.

  10. What's the team cheer? And who's Tim?

    Co-founder Tim Griffiths brought the cheer with him from Pennsylvania. It began at college during games of "Pass Out". Anytime someone landed on "All Drink", the cheer would ring out. Tim employed it often, especially at JSC softball games - their softball teams were usually named Team Drink. It may have been there, or a party somewhere, but after a Team Drink cheer, someone said "Tim's the Devil" and it stuck. So no matter when or where the cheer took place, someone always had to state "Tim's the devil" after a cheer.

    T-E-A-M TEEEEAAAM DRINK! (tim's the devil)

Surfin' Chili Awards

For the two or three of you out there who care, here's a summary list of the trophies, ribbons, and awards won by the Surfin' Chili team over the years:

Showmanship (FOD)   2 1   2   2 2     3 2 1 2      
People's Choice Chili (FOD)                                
Judge's Choice Chili (FOD)                                  
Best New Team 1
Grapefruit Pass 1 2 2         2 3     3 1 1  
Pyramid Build 1 1 1 3   2 1   3 3          
Space Trivia 3   3   3 3       1 1 1 1 2    
Beer Chug           2
Jalapeno Eating            
Spoon Pass 2 1 2 1 2   3    
Storefront (RSOC)       1  
Judge's Choice Chili (RSOC)       3  
People's Choice Chili (RSOC)          

  • RSOC Chili Cookoff ran 1990-1995 and only offered awards for chili and storefront, no games.
  • 1990: FOD Best New Team was a special award, never given before or since.
  • 1996: Judge's Choice travelling trophy renamed in honor of Gene Ross.
  • 2002: People's Choice trophy renamed in honor of Bill Preston.
  • 2002: From 2002-present, small trophies awarded for games (through 2001, ribbons were awarded).
  • 2004: Team did not participate. Due to rain, there were no awards for grapefruit pass, spoon drop, or pyramid build.
  • 2005: Cookoff was held offsite. There were no games and no People's Choice.

  • Thursday, September 1, 2005

    2005: The Year Without a Chili Cookoff

    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the year without a chili cookoff at NASA.

    It was planned for May, but then the then-impending liftoff of STS-114 intruded on the launch date, so it was moved to the fall. Then after the launch in July, preparation for the next flight (that will not have launched until well after the 2006 chili cookoff) pushed the 2005 cookoff far enough into the year that there was no room at the Gilruth Center any more. So there was no cookoff.

    Oh, there are some who will say that a traveling cookoff in the Hill Country took its place this year, but nothing will fill the empty void left in the souls of those participants who wait in vain, yearning for the next cookoff. Well, OK, a beer will do fine, but still.

    See you in 2006!

    Saturday, May 1, 2004

    2004: We're Not There

    For the first time since 1989, Surfin' Chili wasn't at the 2004 cookoff. This would have been our 15th year, but our co-captains all had other obligations: one got married the week before, one was her matron of honor, and the third was 4 months pregnant. Sadly, nobody wanted to step up and take up the reigns this one time, so we officially sat this one out.

    However, we sure picked a good year to sit out. It started to rain about 10:45 a.m. and didn't let up for the rest of the afternoon - a cold, windy, torrential rain. The tarps were getting blown down, the DJ had to stop and bag his equipment before it got too wet, there was a half-inch of water on the pavilion floor, and drainage ditches looked like lakes. It's a wonder how any judging got done; nobody could make it to the pavilion for skits or games, and nobody was about to venture out for some chili tasting. No doubt all the teams had plenty of chili to take home.

    As it has been said, "In essence, the gods themselves did weep bitterly that Surfin' Chili was unable to participate this year!"

    11:27 a.m.

    11:46 a.m.

    We'll be back next year....

    Saturday, May 3, 2003

    2003: Preparing for the cookoff (part 1)

    The greatest chili cookoff team on Earth presents the Greatest Show on Earth - the secret behind-the-scenes look at how Surfin' Chili gets ready for the JSC Chili Cookoff using time-honored traditions.

    April 27, 2003: C minus one week and counting....

    The weekend before the cookoff is the Tie-Dye and Propaganda Party. We start out with pristine white t-shirts emblazoned with the Surfin' Chili logo, and use rubber bands or string to section off parts of the shirt. Then we use squeezee bottles of RIT dye to drop the ink precisely (more or less) where we want. That's a far cry from the early days when we would dip the shirt segments into the bucket of dye.

    While the shirts are drying, we start on the propaganda portion. We sit down with a stack of old magazines and take out pictures that we think would be good with funny captions. During the week we'll trim the edges, paste them on construction paper, and print out the captions with the Surfin' Chili web address. We also write down ideas that have come up for the skit, and think of "Burma-Shave" sign gags. After that, we'll know how many pieces of posterboard and other supplies we'll need.

    2003: Preparing for the cookoff (part 2)

    April 30, 2003: C minus three days and counting....

    The Wednesday before the cookoff is when propaganda is allowed to be put up at JSC. Things are much tamer than they used to be, with people rapelling off the roof of Bldg 1 to post signs outside windows, or disassembling and then reassembling a VW in the Bldg 4 lobby, or even leaving kegs of beer outside certain officials' offices. These days, the windows, walls, and doorways are covered with fliers, and the roadsides have all manner of signs.

    Here are some of Surfin' Chili's fliers:

    2003: Preparing for the cookoff (part 3)

    May 2, 2003: C minus one day and counting....

    The day before the cookoff is the pre-cookoff propaganda, booth setup followed by the Cut-Up Party.

    The Showmanship judges have a pre-cookoff meeting where teams can serenade them, perform skits, or anything else they think would win them favor. For 2003, a number of the team members discussed the upgraded Jello-shot Delivery System (JDS) v1.1.

    2003: Preparing for the cookoff (part 4)

    At the end of the day, we grab the booth, stacked neatly in my garage each year, load it in a couple pickup trucks, and haul it over to the Gilruth Center for setup. It's done in a couple of hours.

    The "before" picture.

    First, frame the base and put in the support structure.

    Then put in the floor.

    Add a couple of walls, which fit into pre-cut slots in the floor.

    Next, install the balcony floor, which gives the walls support.

    Put up the front of the booth and add the ladder in back.

    Install railings in front and on the balcony.

    The main part of the booth is complete!

    Start putting up the thatched roof support beams.

    Behind the booth, our tent is set up.

    Add thatched roof, using discarded palm fronds.

    Install Jello Shot Dispenser, surfboards, bikinis, and trophies
    (done on the day of the cookoff).

    Last but not least, install team!.

    Once we're done with the booth, it's over to the Cut-Up Party, where we distribute the shirts that we made last week, polish off the skit and assign parts, cut up the meat and veggies, and make the jello shots.

    2003: Too Far From Reality

    Another year, another Showmanship trophy. Our 6th second place finish this time, our ninth trophy in 14 competitions. A fall to second place in Space Trivia - after four straight first place finishes - probably hurt.

    Our skit this year - "Too Far From Reality" - featured our usual cast of characters: Christiane Armand-Bayou, Pat McGroin, and the Chili News Network. The big story, of course, was the ongoing war in Iraq, which by this time had seen US forces enter Baghdad. The prime target for skewering was the Iraqi Information Minister who insisted (among other things) that "Everything is OK". Geraldo Rivera, Elvis, the Public Affairs Office, the new security barricades at JSC, and the recent email server problems all made appearances of sorts.

    Tom and Steph updated the Jello-shot Delivery System to JDS 1.1. It was very helpful in our annual Jello Shot Twister game

    Spoons - a disappointing non-top-3 finish.

    At least the tattoos were a hit, though.

    Bombing run!
    T - E - A - M, Teeeeeeeeeam drink! (Tim's the devil)

    They didn't like our chili this year either. What a surprise.

    On the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of the JSC Chili Cookoff, the organizers created a plaque to honor "Grand Poo-Bah" George Abbey, the who has been involved with the cookoff since the beginning. When they asked around for photos of Abbey, I remembered that as Center Director at the time, he had a photo op at our booth in 1998 with Rep. Nick Lampson (D-Beaumont, TX). The original photo has gotten misplaced somewhere, but a scan is on the Surfin' Chili web page.

    George Abbey with the plaque

    The original print from 1998

    A closeup of the image from the plaque

    Surfin' Chili 2003