My first, um, cornhole

Balls, Pucks, and Monster Trucks
By RICK WORMWOOD  |  August 12, 2009

Last month, while at my friends Bill and Sarah Paradis’s Walton Street home for some backyard grillin’ and chillin’, Bill asked if I wanted to play cornhole. I was taken aback. Cornhole? Where I grew up, “cornhole” was a rough synonym for “anus.” I wasn’t sure how to take Bill’s offer. What was he actually asking? Imagine my relief when he explained that cornhole is a beanbag-tossing game, a derivative of horseshoes that has become pretty popular. Pheeew!

According to Bill and Sarah, the name “cornhole” comes from the beanbags, which were originally filled with corn, although sources vary as to the etymology, and regarding the origin of the game itself. This much is certain: participants stand beside their cornhole board, and toss their four beanbags at the other cornhole board, some 27 feet away. The boards are four feet long, and sit on the ground propped up at a 40-degree angle. Toward the top is the aperture that is your beanbag’s target; I guess you’d have to call it the cornhole. Players receive three points for getting the bag in the cornhole, and one for landing it on the board. Cornhole has cancellation scoring, so if Team A scores three points in a round, and then Team B scores two, Team A receives one point that round. The first team to 21 points wins.

We played, the board set up on the Walton Street sidewalk, and it was fun, but I kept thinking that the game needed a new name. “Cornhole” is too nasty. Everything about it had me wanting to make a dirty joke. When a player would make a nice shot, flinging the bag right into the target, people would say, Nice bag . And I’d think, Yeah, they know how to throw their bag into the cornhole ; or maybe, Atta boy, that’s the way to cornhole! Damn, you must’ve been cornholing since you were a little kid! Who taught you to cornhole, your Dad? The double-entendres were endless, some so bad that Aerosmith wouldn’t use them in a song (not even the one that goes, “She just loves my big ten-inch/record of my favorite blues”), and they kept coming a couple days later at a friend’s annual summer party at a camp on Square Pond, which featured a mixed-doubles cornhole tournament. How do you not crack wise while getting paired up your friends’ wives for cornholing? You can’t. You’re going to say something; but how do you not say something filthy and puerile? I bet someone out there could, but they are a better, more mature human being than I.

True, that doesn’t set the bar very high. And when I Googled cornhole, the fact that my mind is eternally entrenched in eighth grade was only reinforced. I expected to find nothing but backdoor porn, but there was Web site after Web site featuring the game. There were cornhole organizations; cornhole merchants taking advantage of the double-entendre (and simultaneously making inside jokes for game fans) by selling boards, bags, beer cozies, and T-shirts that say I Like To Cornhole ; places where, um, aspiring cornholers could get the rules, or, if they wanted to make their own boards, download diagrams. I thought I’d find nastiness searching on Google Images, but the nastiest thing was a picture of two dudes at a nudist party playing the game.

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