Red Card Roberts
July 20, 2011
Being from Nebraska, it’s safe to say I know a thing or two about corn. But apparently this worthless knowledge doesn’t translate over to a high-stakes cornhole tournament.
Cornhole is a simple game that’s quickly gained a passionate following (sort of like the Tea Party, only not racist or homophobic). And perhaps no group is more cornhole crazy than the good people on Fairview Drive in Park City’s Trailside neighborhood.
Every year they host a tournament for neighbors, family and friends, and every year I quickly find myself in the losers’ bracket. Sadly, the 2011 Days of Cornhole Invitational held last Saturday was no exception.
This annual tournament is hosted by Andy and Kari Talbott, Melissa "Moe" and Steve Briley, and Christie Worthington and Jeff Farber, also known as the Farbingtons.
The game is played by tossing bags of corn into a hole on a platform. Two platforms are spaced about 30 feet apart and contestants take turns pitching their bags of corn at the platform until one team reaches a score of 21. It’s similar to horseshoes, only without the possibility of an ER visit should someone have a sloppy toss.
And cornhole is becoming so popular, there’s even an official anthem, boasting the lyrics "You gotta try it before you knock it; just try to find another sport to top it. You can win with an open cold one in your back pocket!"
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Which pretty much sums up why it’s so popular: The more you drink, the better you are.
Andy and Kari are the original hosts, and in the five years since the tournament’s inception, they’ve grown to love cornhole even more. Andy notes, "It’s such a great sport because anyone can play. You don’t have to be athletic, it’s very portable and there’s not a lot of equipment needed – just two boards and eight bags of corn. It’s an addictive game."
Andy says the tournament started with just 10 teams, and now it’s up to 36. "It’s really gained in popularity over the years. Not just because the game is fun, but also because the tournament is just a great day to spend outside with your friends and neighbors. There’s a real fellowship to this special day."
Fairview’s annual cornhole tournament even has a national following, with people from Florida, California and Oklahoma flying in just for this weekend. For Southern California resident Lance Nielsen, it’s an annual tradition. "I fly 700 miles to get my cornhole fix each year," he says.
This year, what a fix he got! The final match was World Series championship, bases loaded, bottom of the 9th, full-count tense. Andy and future Hall of Famer Kris Severson provided the play-by-play as teammates Sean Briley and defending champ Jenny LeVake took on Michael Costello and Haley McDonald, who had bravely battled back from the loser’s bracket.
Fans were teetering on the edge of their seats with each toss of the bag. (Although to be fair, that might have been the consequence of too many beers.)
The commentary went something like this:
"The wind continues to be a factor, but Jenny is looking for the golden sombrero. She is focused and appears to be meditating."
"And she nails it! Three swishes and a slider! Unbelievable! Can Haley answer? She’s been providing pressure-cooker plays the entire tournament. And yes, yes, yes! She does it again! It’s a wash this round."
"Now it’s Sean’s turn. He’s been known to choke in crucial moments. Can he avoid tossing four Sally’s?"
"Solid defensive playing. Sean’s got himself a leprechaun here, folks. Michael’s got to be feeling the heat."
"And Michael answers with some serious air mail! Absolutely brilliant play!"
In the end, Haley and Michael took home the highly coveted cornhole trophy, split the $500 prize money and, most importantly, will enjoy bragging rights until next July.
Considering they were the team that knocked my partner and me out of the tournament, the agony of defeat is just slightly more bearable. But I will be practicing for the next 51 weeks. After all, it’s only right to have a Cornhusker win at cornhole.
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Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, public-relations guru and globe-trotting thrill seeker. In a former life she worked in TV news, both as a reporter and sports anchor. She has bagged peaks on six continents, kayaked the Zambezi and Nile rivers, swam with great white sharks in South Africa and tracked mountain gorillas in Rwanda. She was once very nearly sold for 2,000 camels while traveling through Morocco.