A few days ago, the TobacCo office manager stopped by my desk to announce that there would be a company ‘bags tournament’ on Thursday and asked if I was interested in participating.
I had no idea what a bags tournament was and nearly responded with something witty, ala “paper or plastic?”, but she recognized the puzzled look on my face and filled in the blanks first.
“You know, bags,” she said. “Some people call it corn hole.”
Ahh, corn hole! Why didn’t you say so in the first place?! That is a game I’m very familiar with. I even own a corn hole set, and every time my dad comes out to visit, we spend hours playing. (In reality, I spend hours losing. Whatever.) I’m not sure where that “some people” comment came from, because every single person I’ve ever known has called it corn hole.
“We call it bags out here,” she explained.
What fresh madness was this? A joke on the Wisconsin newbie? A modern-day snipe hunt where poor ol’ Mark would sign up for a fake sport and, ha-ha, everybody would have a good laugh at my expense? Nice try, bub. I wasn’t having any of that.
Only, it turns out, she wasn’t trying to pull a fast one over on me.
Much like “soda” versus “pop,” what you call it varies by region. Most of the country calls it corn hole. But there’s a small contingent in the Upper Midwest — right around Chicago and points north (Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota) — who do, indeed, call it bags. Other names include beans, sacks, doghouse, and dummy boards.
I still didn’t completely trust Google, so I brought it up at work this morning. Two of the guys I questioned said they’ve always called it corn hole, but one native Sconnie was particularly vocal in her disdain for that name and insisted it’s bags. Always has been, always will be, end of discussion.
I’ve already learned several things in the brief time I’ve lived in Wisconsin. To wit:
- Ranch dressing is served with everything. Including tortilla chips.
- Midwest Jell-O culture is legitimate. You’ll find it in the deli case of your corner grocer.
- The more vowels they can cram into city names, the better. Like Okonomowoc and Kaukauna and Wauwatosa.
- Practically every restaurant has a Friday fish fry, even if it clashes with the rest of the menu. We tried an Italian place and a barbecue joint last weekend and they both have ‘em.
- That obsession with the Packers ain’t no joke. Not exactly a revelation, but the extent of their hometown pride is. Green and yellow might as well be the official state colors.
Between the supper clubs and cheese curds and Brandy Old Fashioneds, it sometimes feels like Wisconsin is a foreign country. Things everyone takes for granted here would be met with confusion elsewhere.
Which is really all part of the charm.
In the end, I had to decline the bags tournament invite. I’ll be there to cheer on the competitors; TobacCo is bringing in lunch for everyone that day, and it looks to be a rollicking good time. But, I injured my right elbow during the move, and it’s been giving me so much grief I’m now icing it and wearing a compression wrap. Things I should have been doing from the start, but I’m your classic stubborn Taurus.
I don’t even remember it happening, but by the time we rolled into Fort Atkinson two weeks ago tomorrow, I was in pain. I’m going out on a limb here and guessing it had something to do with the million and one heavy boxes I spent two days loading into the U-Haul. Sprained muscle or not, all those boxes then had to be unloaded, so I soldiered through as best I could.
I’ll survive, I’m sure. I’ve pulled various muscles in the past, and they always heal on their own after a little while. Good thing, because I’m between health insurance plans at the moment.
No more loading and unloading boxes ever again, I promise.
I did consider signing up for the bags tournament anyway and using my left hand to throw, but with my luck, the beanbag would smash my boss’s window or something.
Not the impression I’d like to make barely a week into my new job, so sidelines it is!