I’d been to Turfway Park before. It’s pretty much across the street from the Cincinnati airport, which is actually in northern Kentucky. After a Kentucky Derby 12 years ago, I was supposed to drive there from Louisville to catch a 7 a.m. flight to be home for my producer friend Gus Ramsey’s son’s birthday.
Somehow I missed my alarm and awoke in Louisville about the same time I was scheduled to arrive home for the party. As if PJ Ramsey would even remember I had attended. Instead, after missing the event, I wrote him a note that I hope Gus kept for him.
It went: “Dear PJ, your Uncle Kenny somehow missed your 2-year-old birthday party, but there’s always that one uncle who teaches his nephews about gambling, and I’m your guy. Sure, I missed your party. I hope the keg of apple juice was chilled and the bouncy house was inflated. But after missing my scheduled flight, I also missed the next five flights. The day after the Derby is a big travel day in Kentucky. Don’t be stupid. No way am I making those flights. It was like John Candy was right there telling me this. So I finally found a flight home at about 9 p.m., which allowed me to spend some quality time across the street at Turfway Park Racecourse. Hollywood Park was running out West, and my trifecta box came home. By not going to your stupid party, I won something like $1,500. That money will be long gone by the time you learn how to read, but I hope by the time you’re around 14 or so you’ll appreciate the fact 2-year-old birthdays are long forgotten, but $1,500 trifecta hits are forever. Let’s go to the track one day. Yours, Uncle Kenny.”
Too bad PJ wasn’t around for this visit to Turfway Park. We hit another trifecta. Not that we didn’t do diligent work. I made that play after competing one night for a couple of hours in the long-toss event at the World Championships of Cornhole. For about three hours, I owned the world record at 77 feet. But there was no way I was walking away with the title. Not with a guy from Cincinnati named Ricky Mayes throwing his arm off. He wouldn’t quit ’til he owned the top mark. And he did: 95 feet.
But it was 27 feet where the tournament field competed for king of cornhole.
You know cornhole. It’s that game with the curious name that people play in parking lots outside football games. Except most of those people don’t play like most of the people we saw at the World Championships of Cornhole. I got smoked in doubles by a 65-year-old grandma. No shame. That old lady made 3s like Larry Bird in an NBA All-Star contest. Just flat drained ’em. These people taught me how you don’t just throw and hope to make the bag fly through the hole. You have to put a little touch on the bag. You slide it up the board, you block your opponent and you call out “air mail” when you feel like naming your shot billiards-style. And you do this with the same consistency that any top player does in his or her sport. They did this, too. They did this when they weren’t complaining to us that it’s high time cornhole got its own TV show. They pointed out how poker, darts, pool and synchronized swimming all have made it inside the TV set, so why not us? The best we could promise them for now is our little Internet show (and its accompanying TV special).
Watch for yourself. Maybe it’s time cornhole went big-time. Cornhole wasn’t even offered at PJ’s birthday party. No regrets — for visiting Turfway that time or this.