the social organization of the carbo-load
we hosted somewhere between 75 and 90 varsity football players for thursday's carbo-load.* they descended like very polite locusts around 5:15 and had vanished by 6:15. a few semi-sociological observations and a story:
1. organization. though they piled their plates high with lasagna, spaghetti, bread, and cookies, the boys didn't seem to spill a drop anywhere inside or outside the house. when they left, absolutely nothing was out of place. had they shown up for a non-football party at 5:15 on a thursday night last summer, i have no doubt that the very same boys would've trashed the place. because it was a team event, however, it had the dicipline and organization of a football practice. as you might guess, my house does not usually operate like this.
2. flow. about a half-dozen experienced parents brought the food and managed the operation, arriving before the lads for setup. for a smallish house like ours (maybe 2000 sq. ft.), traffic flow is apparently the key -- keep 'em moving through the line, then disperse the seating. nice weather helps too. after just visiting a prison cafeteria where the inmates (strictly) self-segregated by race, i couldn't help noticing that everybody was pretty much interacting with everybody else. if anything, the players' size and position seemed to govern their seating patterns to a much greater extent than demographic factors.
3. ritual. there were no big speeches, but carbo loads surely function as solidarity-building rituals. they also function to help control the pre-game diet and, perhaps, to keep a lid on other social events that may occur the evening before a game. the vibe was one of relaxed confidence and easy interaction among the players and coaches -- i'm not sure whether this is due to the team's recent win streak or whether it is a more general characteristic. it seems important that the head coach, the managers, and a much-beloved groundskeeper stopped by as well.
4. food. the (female) team managers ate very little, but the (male) coaches ate about as much as the players. the spaghetti and lasagna went quickly, though the pizza didn't even make it through the garage and into the house. also, high school footballers drink crazy amounts of milk, probably because carbonated drinks are expressly forbidden.
5. the story. the carbo-load is an unusual social interaction, in which the lads follow a map to a stranger's house, then just walk in and eat. i'd imagine that this process can be a little awkward for the early arrivers and the hosts. when we borrowed a few chairs from a neighbor, she shared a carbo-load story from her son's days on the swim team. i'll have to paraphrase and may be mistaken about a few details, but it went something like this:
the hungry lads arrived at the big house at the carbo-load's appointed hour, where they were soon met by a very tall, affable homeowner.
lads: "are we the first ones here?"
kevin mchale: (looking around) "yeah, i guess so."
lads: "umm... where's the food?"
kevin mchale: "well, the food's in the refrigerator, boys, and you're welcome to help yourself to it -"
then, pointing a looong arm toward a neighboring residence, he added,
"-but i should probably tell you that you've got the wrong house."
the lads checked the address and beat a hasty retreat, but they shared a good laugh with minnesota's basketball legend.
*population estimate based on the 10 forks remaining from the 100 set on the counter. while a few players may taken multiple forks, these were likely offset by the linemen eating with their bare hands. i kid, i kid...