The Cornhole Comeback

This has nothing to do with beer. Well, I suppose it does because I was drinking beer while playing cornhole, but I feel like I have to share this story, even if no one else cares.

Last year at a spring cookout, my friend Andy and I paired up to play cornhole against a few friends. We managed to supplant the pair that had just won 7 straight games. We ran the table that day, winning 8 or 9 games in a row. Having demoralized the competition, the others gave up.

A few months later at our fantasy football draft, we played cornhole after the draft. Andy and I once again teamed up. We won an around 25 games in a row and were not defeated that day. We played so much cornhole that Andy’s elbow hurt for about a week. I’m not making that up.

By this point, our friends were convinced we were somehow cheating or that foul play was afoot. I’m not sure how you cheat at cornhole, since each team has players throwing at the same board, but we had them cussing up a storm. It was unreal, considering our friends are not paraplegics.

Individually, Andy and I are pretty good. I have lost many times with other partners, so it’s not like I’m some ringer that never misses. However, when we’re teamed up, for whatever reason when one of us has an off game, the other is able to step it up.

This past weekend, we all met up once again in Virginia for my friend Phil’s wedding. The rehearsal dinner and reception were both outside at his bride’s parents’ farmhouse. It was a beautiful setting for a wedding weekend.

And they had cornhole.

News of Andy and my exploits traveled far and wide, so of course everyone was challenging us to duels. Friday night we took on all comers, around 15 more wins. Saturday night after the reception, we played again.

Andy and I getting in a little practice between games.

A few other wedding guests cleared out an alley among the tables under the big top so we could play under the lights. We had heard rumors that one of the girls was a cornhole ringer. Apparently she won an iPod at a cornhole tournament or something. Perhaps this would be where it all ended.

We took on the ringer with her on my side. After some dispute over rules and scoring, we managed to get the game along. She was dead serious, and I’ll admit my competitive juices were flowing. There was no way we were losing to this girl.

She was good, and we matched each other nearly toss for toss. Luckily, her boyfriend would have had trouble hitting the broad side of a barn, and the girl even called him out mid-game on the PA system. It was high comedy. Andy managed to annihilate the poor guy, so we took the match.

Andy under the lights.

Streak alive. And then, the real game began.

The Comeback

Every man, deep down, wants more than anything to be clutch. To come through when it counts with his back to the wall and all the pressure bearing down to test his true mettle.

We all dream of hitting the walk-off home run, sinking the game-winning three-pointer as time expires, or heaving the hail mary that fall into a receiver’s arms as the clock reads zero.

I remember Kirk Gibson’s walk-off home run in the 1988 World Series, Jordan’s game winner against Craig Ehlo and the Cavaliers in the 1989 playoffs, and of course, John Elway’s many comebacks, none bigger than the The Drive in the 1986 AFC Championship game.

Around 11 pm, as the reception was winding down and most guests had left, Andy and I squared off in a match against Red and Kurt. We’d played many times against Red and knew he had skill, but Kurt was a newcomer to cornhole. However, he’s one of those naturally gifted people who you can tell pick things up quickly. We knew this would be a formidable team.

Red and I facing off.

Red and Kurt got out to a quick start, up 12-5. (We played to 21.) Then, Red tossed one of the best rounds I’ve ever seen, sinking all four of his shots in the hole. I thought we were done. I was so overwhelmed by Red gunning us down that I didn’t notice Andy had sunk one in the hole. Add in the two he laid on the board and we were now down 19-5.

After regrouping, both teams struggled a bit the next two rounds and the score was 20-6. No more room for error, we could not give up a single point from here on out or the streak would be done.

I was up, tossing against Kurt. After three tosses, we each laid two bags on the board. Then Kurt sunk a cornhole. I was down to my last toss, needing to hit it in the hole to keep our 50+ game streak alive.

I took a deep breath, lined it up, and let fly. I nailed the shot, barely touching wood. Andy rushed over and threatened to kiss me on the lips, but we made due with a few chest bumps.

I knew, even at the time, that if we somehow managed to complete this comeback, this was the moment. The back-to-the-wall shot to stay alive.

Since I never played seriously competitive sports, rec league basketball being my highest level of competition, I don’t have very many do-or-die moments that really had anything on the line.

I do remember one in particular, a basketball game my senior year of high school. We were down one with a few seconds left. I can’t remember if we diagramed a play (probably not), but we inbounded the ball from under our basket. The other team tried to press and I somehow managed to break free down the court and no one followed me to defend.

One of my teammates passed the ball ahead to me, and not having a great sense for the clock, I stopped at the free-throw line to shoot rather than risking a layup and having time run out. I missed the shot. Though minor, that memory has stuck with me for a long time.

The game-saving toss to stay alive seemed to rattle Kurt and Red, while it put Andy and I into an amazing groove. It seemed we led off each round with a shot in the hole to immediately put the pressure on our opponents. A few rounds later, I recall hitting three cornholes and laying the forth on the board. We just exploded.

Suddenly, the score was 20-20. It came down to me and Kurt. I hit the first toss in the hole. Kurt matched it, right in the hole. I laid one on the board, he matched it. Then I hit another in the hole. Kurt missed. I missed. Kurt missed.

I fell to my knees like Brandi Chastain in the World Cup. Andy about threw me through the tent in a grizzly bear hug. It was pandemonium. Well, as pandemonius as two people can be.

We played a few more games that night, leaving the streak in tact somewhere in the neighborhood of 60. I don’t know the exact amount, but I do know that’s insane.

Over the course of sixty games, there is no logical explanation as to how we could not have a bad game and catch someone else on a great game. We’re not that good, and our competition hasn’t been that bad.

Andy and I have talked about traveling around to college football tailgates and hustling drunk frat boys, or perhaps going on the American Cornhole Association tournament circuit.

We will lose sometime soon. We are vulnerable, as Red and Kurt showed us. No matter when the streak comes to an end, it’s been an incredibly fun ride. For the first time in my life, I’ve been on a team that’s unbeatable.

It’s a neat feeling, even if it is just cornhole.

(Photographs courtesy of Matthew Johnson)

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About Brian

I like beer.
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13 Responses to The Cornhole Comeback

  1. Red says:

    I am still shaking my head. Nice post man, was fun!

  2. EnglishPhil says:

    That is truly insane! Great post man. Mer knew cornhole would be a hit but she didn’t know it would be that big of a hit. Incidentally, J-Simm is already talking rematch! Love you guys thanks for being a part of it!

  3. Lindy says:

    It was a truly legendary matchup!

  4. Andy says:

    Awesome post! I am in awe of the run we are on. Defies all logic. Perhaps Kenny Mayne can do a piece on the situation.

  5. Matt says:

    Now you guys need to master the skill that is testicle toss.

  6. This is an awesome post. Everyone wants to be a Cornhole champ, it takes some real skill and drinking skill to become one. Well Done!

  7. sean says:

    “It’s a neat feeling, even if it is just cornhole.”

    Um….that’s what she said.

  8. Josh says:

    Camp Kemo 2010.

    • Brian says:

      The lesson: Don’t write about streaks when you are in the middle of them, because you will lose the next game you play.

  9. Mark says:

    good story. so you think you can hang with the pros. we thought so too. here is our story on that:

    http://www.bagtosscornhole.com/just-how-good-are-the-pros/

    cheers, 60 games in a night is solid.

    • Brian says:

      Thanks, Mark. It’s funny, because immediately after writing this story, Andy and I lost our next game. Actually, we lost about four in a row. I seem to have jinxed myself and turned into the Rick Ankiel of cornhole.

      I’ve never seen the pros play, even during the height of our streak, we never had delusions of being able to compete on that level. It’s a different stratosphere. Thanks for sharing that post, it was a great read and I can just picture the drama of Vanderver/Sutton match. Very cool!

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