Monday, October 20, 2003

Cincinnati's crazy for Cornhole


Whether the game was invented here or not, a lot of people have picked up the bean bag and run with it

By Shauna Scott Rhone
The Cincinnati Enquirer

For Erica Lamb and her friend Lisa Price, it's all about the toss.

Kevin Broxterman and Tim Kloepfer always have their bags ready to go.

Shannan Schmitt and Randy Nauman don't consider themselves pros, but they do have their own strategy.

"Just aim and pray," says Schmitt, 31, of East Walnut Hills.

Prayers are optional, but the aim is clear: this group - along with hundreds more on any given day - can't get enough of Cincinnati's favorite home-grown game, cornhole.

While summer is prime season for the beanbag toss game, it's played year-round. One player admits to setting up the game in the basement so he can play during the chilly months.

Fun among friends is the prevailing philosophy for the popular bag-toss game. Many claim its roots lie in the Midwest, but cornhole is slowly flinging itself as far away as Mexico.

Broxterman, 25, of Bridgetown, isn't surprised by cornhole's global appeal.

SEND US YOUR PHOTOS
We love cornhole, too. Send photos of your tournament, official or unofficial, back yard or biergarten, to Cornhole for Tempo, The Cincinnati Enquirer, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati, OH 45202, or send jpeg files via e-mail to srhone@enquirer.com.
"My uncle throws a tournament for family and friends every summer," says Broxterman, a retirement specialist. More than 50 people show up annually for the west-side neighborhood event.

Lamb and Price say they enjoy the camaraderie and playful intensity of the game.

"We just play it for fun," says Lamb, 30, of Mount Adams. "We don't take it as seriously as other people."

She and Price, 28, of Mount Lookout, say they don't play together often but do have a game strategy.

"Toss high," says Price. "Of course, you play better during drinks."

Broxterman agrees. He plays regularly with Cheviot resident Kloepfer, a 25-year-old collections agent, mostly in backyard games with friends and family.

"Our strategy is to get it on the board," says Broxterman. He also admits to using a bottle of brew as a counterweight when throwing during a game.

Schmitt and Nauman are journeymen players. Among the teams participating in the annual Give Back Cincinnati Cornhole Tournament last month, these two had the most cornhole-related prizes. They say they've tossed together for the past three years.

"We play together a lot," says Nauman, 27, of Covedale, an investment analyst.

"We play so much," says Schmitt, a Partners in Education director at the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative, "we should probably start a support group" for cornhole fanatics.

TOURNAMENT SATURDAY
Test your skill Saturday at Germania Park, 3529 W. Kemper Road, Colerain Township. The cornhole tournament is a fund-raiser for the Cincinnati Classics Hammer U-16 soccer team. Fee: $30 per two-person team (limit of 64 teams); must be 18 to enter. Cash and door prizes. Registration starts at 6 p.m. Food and drinks available. Information: 519-4665.
One Cincinnatian is so cornhole-crazy, he's actively campaigning for game uniformity.

Ryan Whetstone of Mount Healthy heads the Cornhole Game Association (www.cornholegame.org). His mission is to standardize the game and make it more accessible across the country.

"I started the association in August when I realized there seemed to be no standardization for the game," says the 26-year-old engineering grad student at the University of Cincinnati. "Bean bag games use 2-by-3-foot boards, there are people in Cleveland who report using 2-by-2-foot targets. Here, boards are 2-by-4 feet.

"When I put up the Web site, I got e-mails asking if there are any official rules. There aren't any, so I took advantage of the number of people asking questions and started the Association to finally make universal rules for cornhole."

Whetstone says he's gotten more than 500 responses to his online survey. They came from as far away as Arizona and Washington.

"I seem to get a lot of responses from people who have been on vacation in Cincinnati," he says, "or we've taken the game with us to family reunions in other cities."

So many people asked on his Web site where to buy the game, Whetstone created Whetstone Products and currently sells 75-80 corhole game sets and some 40 bag sets a month.

"It's amazing how it brings families together," says Whetstone.

He knows what he's talking about. His mother-in-law, cousin, uncle and father all chip in to make it a family affair and keep Cincinnati the capital of cornhole.

Whetstone does have one wish, though: he'd like to change the name of the game. Using an Internet search engine to find information on cornhole, he reasons, gets you tangled up in X-rated Web sites. He'd like the game to avoid such un-family-friendly connections.

"A lot of people say the game is similar to horseshoes," he says. "Why can't we just change the name to softshoes, instead of cornhole?"

E-mail srhone@enquirer.com




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