Make way for cornhole

How the Midwest's stupidest sport is taking Boston by storm
By EUGENIA WILLIAMSON  |  June 9, 2011

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When I left Chicago for Boston three years ago, I expected to leave a few things behind. Friendliness, for one, and deep-dish pizza, and modernist architecture, and perfect hot dogs, and . . . cornhole.


Cornhole — otherwise known as bag toss, corn toss, bags, and bean-bag toss — swept my hometown in the early 2000s. Once the sole province of aging frat boys (or steak heads, as Chicagoans call them), cornhole has become de rigueur at every Cubs bar and brat-centric barbecue — even the nerdy ones.

It's long been a staple in other Midwestern and Southern states, too. America became infatuated with cornhole in 2004. Media saturation spiked again in 2008 — the year that saw the debut of Cornhole: The Movie, a bawdy mockumentary, as well as the death of Charles "Chu" Farfsing Jr., widely regarded as the nation's best cornholer, seized by cardiac arrest while locked up for DWI in an Ohio holding cell.

Around that time, the first wave of cornholing college students returned home to the Northeast, planting the seeds for total cornhole domination. But to many Bostonians, it still sounds like a sex act.

Not so for the people gathered at Clery's last Tuesday. There, in the basement, I witnessed a spectacle that warmed my sausage-clogged heart. Forty-odd people wore T-shirts with "WHERE 'JUST THE TIP' COUNTS" printed across the back. They had assembled for the third match of Social Boston Sports' spring cornhole league. Two by two, in teams with names like Bags Deep and Me So Corny, they pitched beanbags behind 10 evenly spaced gray plastic platforms the size of grade-school desks. They're vying for a place in the finals, at which the best among them will win a pair of cornhole champion league T-shirts and the chance to drink from a plastic trophy just big enough to hold a full pitcher of beer.

LOCAL CORN

Every time Social Boston Sports announces the start of a new cornhole season, its leagues fill up instantaneously. There are now enough local fans to sustain at least seven cornhole nights at sports bars throughout the city.

When I found out cornhole had become popular in Boston, I could scarcely believe it. Cornhole seems so thoroughly Midwestern. It's not just that the name has the word "corn" in it, it's in the attitude, too: adamantly earthy, self-consciously silly, and utterly futile. I believed cornhole couldn't survive in the chilly Northeastern air. I was wrong.

Cornhole's charming stupidity, it seems, can win anyone over. It's a sport in the vaguest sense of the word, played almost exclusively by children and drunk people. As such, it's incredibly straightforward: you toss beanbags through holes cut in boards.

" 'Referee' is an extremely loose term when it comes to cornhole," says Lisa Neville, a course manager for Harvard Medical School. She has overseen 10 cornhole leagues, cornholing once a week in the spring and summer and twice in the fall.

We are sitting courtside at Clery's, mesmerized by bags sailing through the air like a row of disembodied metronomes. An errant bag lands at my feet. I pick it up and hold it in my lap.

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