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The Chicken Draft

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We’re well into the NFL playoffs and I can’t help but remember one of my highlights of last year’s playoff run. On the West Coast where I live, there is usually an early/mid morning game and an afternoon game on the schedule. What this means is that between the chips, cheezies and salted meats, you find yourself in need of a real meal. Given the nature of the day, you find that you don’t exactly want go for a garden salad.

During one session last year, we settled on fried chicken for lunch. There was a large group of us so we had to come up with a way to fairly divide up the food. Keeping in line with the sporting theme of the day, we came up with the brilliant idea of holding a chicken draft. And it is exactly what it sounds like: we basically sat around and drafted pieces of fried chicken. Well fried chicken and sides. Curious? Disgusted? Impressed? Either way, please read on for more detail.

When setting up a chicken draft, you should begin by trying to get enough pieces that will evenly divide by the number of drafters. If not, you should at least aim to have enough for three full rounds (not including sides).

Next, write sequential numbers (i.e. 1, 2, 3, etc.) on pieces of paper that should then be securely folded and tossed into the proverbial “hat,” which could be a bowl, box, shoe…you get the idea. The pieces of paper should equal the number of participants so if five people are in the draft, you would have five pieces of paper with number 1 on one piece, number 2 written on another piece, all the way up to the fifth paper, which would have the number 5 on it. I apologize if this is insulting anyone’s intelligence but I thought I should be clear here.

Once all the names are in, lay out the fried chicken on a flat surface where the pieces can be easily scrutinized and scouted by the drafters. Allow a few minutes for everyone to size up the meat before commencing the actual draft. Because you’re likely dealing with a wide variety of people with varying hygiene habits, I recommend instituting a “look but don’t touch” policy here. I also recommend using some sort of newspaper/paper towel/wax paper base upon which to lay out the chicken. Just trust me.

Then, each person picks a piece of paper out of the hat and this will determine the order of the draft in the first round. Once the last person has picked his or her piece of chicken in round one, the papers are put back in the hat and this process is repeated for round two and subsequent rounds.

Now at this point, you’re probably realizing that I’m actually serious about this concept. Before you start to judge me, just know it can produce some quality dialogue featuring lines like these:

“Wow, that’s a controversial pick for the first round.”

“I’m happy with my pick. I wanted to open with a light appetizer instead of going over the top. Plus, there aren’t too many wings in this bucket.”

“Nice one. I had my eye on that piece. I can’t believe it fell into the late rounds.”

“That’s a piece of chicken that you can build a meal around.”

“Ooh. That one could go either way on you – it’s the fried chicken equivalent of a European player.”

In fact, if you wait until all pieces of chicken are picked before eating, you can make color comments like who has the strongest plate or whose meal is least likely to result in a heart attack.

I also recommend formulating some sort of strategy prior to picking. If you go in randomly grabbing away, you’re going to end up with the meal equivalent of a New York sports team – lots of individual talent but lacking in theme or cohesiveness. The best time to do this is during the scouting phase, right after the meat has been laid out for display. Yes, we are still talking about fried chicken.

My personal strategy is to go for a balanced meal. You open strong with a big piece like a breast, heavy on the loose skin and breading. This will be the anchor of your plate. In the next round, you go for a moderate sized piece like a back and then cap it off in the final round with a veteran pick like a drumstick or wing. Dress it with a few scoops of unnaturally green blended salad, some soggy fries and you’re good to go.

Another strategy is to build a plate for long term success. Basically you decide to go easy with smaller picks like wings and drums, maybe one moderately sized piece like a back. Then you focus on balancing your plate with salad, fries and a biscuit. This is the type of plate that is least likely to make you feel ill afterward, hence the name “long term success.”

Finally you can use the “Go Big” strategy where you take the biggest, most skin laden, heavily battered piece of chicken available on the table…every round. Cap it with a few handfuls of fries and lots of gravy and you should be lying on the floor clutching your chest before the fourth quarter. Think Icarus because for a brief moment, everyone will be in absolute awe of you.

After everything is picked and done and if you have a few pieces left over, you can hold something like a dispersal draft, whereby those who feel they didn’t build the plate they wanted can pick up some scraps to satisfy them.

Conversely, this dispersal draft could be made into a cruel joke if no one wants to voluntarily claim the pieces. Basically, you go back to the hat, draw numbers again and the unfortunate people who pick the first few numbers must eat the remaining pieces or pay for the entire meal if they refuse. This can be quite entertaining if everyone is already stuffed full of fried chicken and other processed fixins. Good times!

In related news, apparently increasing rates of obesity are causing dramatic increases in liver diseases commonly found in lifetime alcoholics. But don’t let that stop you. Hey, it’s the playoffs! Hold your own draft and thank me later.


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  • Joanie

    Very clever! I’ll have to try this one at dinner tomorrow.

  • Hardy

    I’m glad I’m not the only one…I was starting to think I was strange.

    – Hardy