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If you like Green Bay's Packers, and you enjoyed Mark Gastineau's now-outlawed sack dance, wait till you see Karen Cosentino put away the groceries.
Last week in a midtown Manhattan A & P, Cosentino bagged defending checkout champ Cheryl King in the Great East Coast Paper Grocery Sack Pack-Off. The 32-year-old Lodi, N.J. mother of three will check out the West Coast winner, to be decided May 14 in Los Angeles. They will meet next month for the national title.
"I can't believe I beat Cheryl!" Cosentino told SI's William Barnhardt. "Back at the A & P in Saddle Brook, I pack groceries much faster than I did today."
But she was fast enough to simultaneously stuff about 40 pounds of groceries into two perfectly balanced, impeccable arrangements—loading each bag with one hand—in 51.4 seconds. "I know you don't believe this," said Cosentino, "but I like bagging, always have. Even when I taught school or was a secretary, I always had part-time work at an A & P checkout."
Her brown-bagging technique: cans and heavy containers at the bottom: glass and bottles in the center; boxes and lighter items along the sides, with magazines, gum and the like filling in the cracks; produce, eggs and other breakables on top. Everything must be "squared," as checkers say, meaning that if you removed the bag, the groceries would stand together unaided.
Patrick DeVito of Rockville Centre, N.Y. packed it in for second place, and turned in the day's fastest sack in the opening heat—50.98 seconds. "I got a stack of paper bags," he explained, "and practiced all week on all the junk in my cupboard." The bag lady to beat, Jersey City's King, came in third.
At the awards ceremony Cosentino was given a blown-up copy of her first-prize $1,000 check. The host A & P manager jokingly said he wouldn't cash it, even with proper I.D. She also got the Charles Still-well Award, named for the 19th-century inventor of the gadget that produced the contemporary version of the paper bag. The statuette is a more or less human figure, made out of paper bags, holding a smaller paper bag filled with groceries, made from cut-up paper bags.
"Gee," Cosentino said, "I think I'll need a bag to take it home in."