Imagine my surprise as I read a front page Wall Street Journal (WSJ) story of June 28, 2007. The growing popularity of the game of cornhole was highlighted in "More People Give This Game a Toss, Corny as It May Be," by David Kesmodel. David took the commercial angle highlighting the expansion of leagues in cities like Chicago, Indianapolis and Milwaukee. Beer companies are vying to sponsor cornhole tournaments. Two national team associations, the American Cornhole Association and the American Cornhole Organization compete to promote the sport. National and world championship tournaments offer rapidly increasing cash prizes for winning teams. David notes that sports bars and beer are a natural tie-in for this game and equipment makers are also big promoters of the sport.

I first heard of cornhole, also called Baggo or Bags, a year or so ago when Allen, our eldest son, mentioned his two-man cornhole team was winning local tournaments around Newark, OH and were entered in regional tournaments in Cleveland and Cincinnati. In the early 1900s, Cincinnati was the birthplace of this game that pits two-man teams against each other. They toss one pound corn-kernel filled bags at a six-inch round hole on a slanted board 30 feet away. A bag through the hole scores three points in a 21-point game. Allen tells me the good players will consistently toss the bag through the hole 3 out of 4 times. A bag that lands on the board, and does not fall off, scores a point, but the opposing team can knock the bag off the board.

When Allen first brought the game to my attention I wondered if cornhole was a story for the Glade Sun. With uncanny insight I decided, "Nah, nobody would be interested in cornhole." After I read the WSJ article and talked with Allen, I decided the author missed a major part of the story of cornhole. Allen filled in the gaps, including the fact that a fellow from New York had been interviewing his club members for an article.

It is true that a friendly pub and a friendly game go hand in hand in the Midwest, but Allen gives me a different viewpoint. However, Allen describes how most of the tournaments are charity fundraisers and points to Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer's Lighthouse Youth Services for abused or abandoned children. Carson and his wife got hooked on cornhole soon after moving to Cincinnati and developed an annual tournament for charity that corporate sponsors fund at a minimum of $2,500. A team entry is usually a $20 fee. At a Cleveland tournament, Allen's club had teams among more than 200, two-man teams. Thousands attend these tournaments and I suspect charities are the big winners. With a first-place prize of $1,500 in Cleveland, a team from Pittsburgh won with Cincinnati second, and one of Allen's club teams from Newark took third place. It helps that one of his teammates is a pro-level bowler who has considered joining the senior bowling tour. Cornhole is also big at tailgate parties in the Midwest, there are dozens of matches being played at every Ohio State football game.

Allen's team is the "Backyard Dogs." Reminiscent of World War II's "Killroy was here," the team jerseys are emblazoned with two Labrador retrievers peering over a fence. No doubt they are watching a cornhole match. Allen assures me their uniforms intimidate opposition at local matches such as the every Thursday night event at a local golf course, where the first-place prize averages $300. At regional tournaments there is no shortage of sartorial splendor in uniforms. Allen adds that the game is a great ice-breaker, like golf, bocce or bridge. You meet new people, make new friends. "We have greatly expanded our circle of friends since I started playing cornhole and we consider that fact the best benefit of all."

I'm thinking any of our children that can provide a nice home and lifestyle for their spouse and children, and enjoy playing a game that fosters opportunities to meet and make good friends, maybe that IS the most important aspect of cornhole.

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