World's best-kept secret Game: Cornhole


World's best-kept secret #cornholestop

West Side's game: Cornhole By Shannon Russell The Cincinnati Enquirer

Ryan Prendergast of White Oak (right) and Angie Hamilton of Monfort Heights practice playing cornhole in White Oak Friday. (Greg Ruffing photo) | ZOOM |

It's time for a very important news flash: Cincinnati is NOT home to the World's Largest Ball of Twine, which weighs 17,320 pounds and actually resides year-round in Cawker City, Kan. Even worse, Cincinnati cannot claim the World's Largest Viking (Alexandria, Minn.), the World's Largest Stump (Kokomo, Ind.) or the World's Largest Boll Weevil (Enterprise, Ala.).

The obvious question is: Why, then, would anyone want to live in Cincinnati? The answer is simple. Besides baseball, homestyle chili and flying pigs, this city has the World's Best Kept Secret.

It's called Cornhole.

I was terrified about embarking on Summer Adventure No. 6, mostly because a.) Cornhole originated on the West Side of Cincinnati, which is generally any area west of I-75; b.) I am considered an East-Sider because I live east of I-71; and c.) West-Siders eat East-Siders for breakfast.

While the game rages on the West Side, it is creeping eastward with the speed of a distracted tortoise. It must be known that many West-Siders' entire pride is rooted in Cornhole, and the word itself is plastered on restaurant marquees, telephone post signs, bar advertisements and the occasional tattooed arm.

CAN THE EAST CATCH ON?

Long ago, ancient civilizations lofted giant rocks at deep openings in the earth, and the game of Cornhole was born.

Or did the Germans bring it from their homeland? Perhaps pioneers played it in Kentucky's foothills?

The origin of Cornhole continues to be a great mystery among West Siders. In an impromptu survey of serious West-Side Cornhole players, few could settle on the game's past or longevity in Cincinnati.

But many veterans agree on one thing: Cornhole's future is what's important.

“I think everyone should try it in Cincinnati,” Whiteoak resident Judy Ping said. “I think it'll catch on more on the East Side when more people find out about it.”

West-Sider Lori Campbell works in Blue Ash. She said her co-workers don't understand the West's unending infatuation with the game.

“They think it's sick,” said Campbell, who plays once a week in a Cornhole league. “I try not to talk about it too much.”

Bridging the Cornhole gap between the Cincinnati's halves shouldn't take too long, according to West Chester's Pat Schleitweiler. A seven-year Cincinnati resident, Schleitweiler learned about the game just this summer but plans to build his own set of boards soon.

“It seems like it's easy for people to pick up because it doesn't require a whole lot of thinking,” he said. “I'd say it's the East-Side equivalent of horseshoes or bocce ball. It's a lot of fun and it seems to be catching on.”

Patrick Hughes of East Walnut Hills enjoyed playing in a work-related Cornhole tournament in Sharon Woods on Thursday, but he admittedly prefers “more refined” activities such as crocquet and badminton.

Others, such as Loveland's Phil Said, predict that Cornhole will always remain a second-tier activity on the East Side.

“One of my neighbors has it, so I know what it is,” Said said. “I like to play baseball or football or basketball instead. Something a little more physical.”

Mike Robbins of Whiteoak isn't surprised.

“East-Siders are always looking to find bigger and better,” he said. “But West-Siders are cool with a 12-pack and a side of boards.”

As I drove to Whiteoak's Northside Knights of Columbus Community Benefit Center for my Cornhole debut, I promptly wondered: “Will I make it out alive?,” followed closely by “WHAT IS CORNHOLE?” I brought along my East-Side ally, Danielle Boal of Hyde Park, who also was perplexed about Cornhole and somewhat skeptical of an outing involving neither wine-tasting nor sushi.

Our afternoon tour guide was business manager Jerry Vesper, hereto referred to as “Boomie,” because that is, in fact, his nickname.

“Cornhole is big over here because so many different people can play, and men and women can compete against each other equally,” Boomie boomed.