Games with Parents

My dad was my little league coach when I was young. He coached my sister’s softball team, too. I played a bunch of sports with the couple of kids who lived in our neighborhood but never more than just messing around on weekends. Hockey, football, and baseball (well, whiffle ball) mostly, but little league was the only “real” sport I played growing up. Since dad was coach though, we played and practiced in the backyard when we could.

We did a bunch of fielding, throwing, and hitting drills, and I remember always thinking how my dad knew so much about baseball, and he was so good. Sure, I was like 8 years old so anyone was better than me (sorry dad!) but I just had this feeling that dad was the best at all the sports we played together. He taught me how to throw a frisbee, and I was always the best at frisbee out of everyone I knew, even going into high school and college. Sure, it’s just frisbee and who plays frisbee, but in high school and college there was an actual ultimate frisbee team and league (and there’s a legit “pro” league now too, though I’m not good enough to play on that level).

The point of the frisbee story is that it was the first physical sport I played with my dad where I was better than him. Not initially obviously, but as I played more without him I just got better, and then when we would play together I noticed that man, I’m actually better than dad at this! It was a wild experience for me as a kid. We still throw a frisbee together to this day and we both have a blast doing it, despite our skill difference.

Table tennis, or ping pong as we called it growing up, was another sport that we played, and dad was unbeatable. We had a table in the basement growing up, and we didn’t play all the time, but I always knew that it was a battle to try to win points off dad, let alone win a game. He was a wall. Every ball came back no matter how great I thought I was, and he wasn’t even slamming shots at me. It was all control and spin.

Well, one summer, a buddy and me got super into table tennis. I don’t even remember why, but we played for hours every day. We had to move stuff all around the basement to get enough room for us to play because we no longer were just standing at the edge of the table. We were backing way off the table, moving around the sides, etc. We’d get destroyed by any actual player, but for just regular guys who occasionally played we were pretty good. So after this summer of playing table tennis all the time I decided to challenge my dad. I thought that MAYBE I could take some points off him now. Maybe win a game if I was super lucky.

Well, I absolutely crushed him.

It wasn’t even close. He couldn’t even score a point against me really unless I made a mistake. He was so bummed. And he’s competitive, too. The roles switched, and despite being the unbeatable dad, he was now the kid that struggled to even score a point. Honestly, he didn’t love that, and to this day he will not play table tennis with me. The few games we played where I just dominated provided a lifetime of losses that were enough for him.

All of this leads up to our experience with cornhole.

I found cornhole back in college and played casually since then. I’ve had a few sets of my own, and my wife and I played all the time. We love it, and I play it whenever I can really, but lately that hasn’t been too often. Well I’m at my parents house for awhile as we build a new house in the area and so I had to get my parents a cornhole set. Now, my parents have played a couple times before but so infrequently that it’s basically brand new to them every time we play.

The first one-on-one games we play were me vs mom, and that will be another story. For now, let’s talk about the games with dad. That’s right, games plural, so he played more than one with me which is better than I can say about our table tennis history. I absolutely destroy him the first game. Not because I’m trying to be a jerk, but when I play a game I’m going to play it for real. If you beat me, awesome, you beat me legit. If I beat you every time, sorry, you gotta get better. That’s just how it is.

So I beat my dad like 21 to 1 or something terrible. He doesn’t love it, but he wants to play again. Same result. Destroyed. So he jokes about making me play with 1 fewer bag than him. I say sure, let’s do it. We play golf together and he’s way better than me, so I get a handicap for scoring. Let’s do that here with cornhole. I’ll throw 3 bags against his 4 bags.

Sadly, for dad, that had virtually no effect. He got wrecked again. So let’s lose another bag. He gets 4 bags and I get 2 bags. Theoretically he can score 12 points for every 6 I can score, which would net him 6 points per round. So even if I hole out every single bag I can throw, he could, in theory, beat me in 4 turns.

Too bad for dad, that wasn’t the case. I beat him again only throwing 2 bags. He didn’t love it, but he acknowledged that it’s just like when I was a kid playing games against him - there was just no chance. I give him credit though, he stuck it out and he says he’ll keep playing with me, despite knowing that I’ll mostly likely keep crushing him.

I’m not sure what it is about table tennis that has scarred him so badly, because he still WILL NOT play with me. But cornhole, like frisbee, bridges the gap I guess.

Get out there and play with your parents. And maybe even let them win a little bit!