Stanford Footbag Club

For the strong of heart, or the just-plain curious, here’s a little history (from my perspective) of the Stanford Footbag Club and how it’s touched many lives in the sport…

We started kicking at Stanford every week back in 1987, and haven’t stopped since. Sure there’ve been a few missed weeks each year, but rain or shine, summer or winter (if you can call it that), we’ve had a regular circle for 16 years and counting (!!).

Seems like yesterday that Andreas Roemer and I kicked the bag in White Plaza that fateful day (a few weeks before the first-ever Berkeley Festival on April Fool’s Day, 1987), and my best trick back then was a sole kick (no, I couldn’t even do a delay). Andreas taught me that. He could do a delay — that was always my dream. Andreas was kicking the bag in White Plaza when I just happened upon him. He was selling footbags in the plaza. Like anyone at Stanford played footbag. Sheesh. What a fool. [Lest you be mistaken, don’t assume I started kicking at Stanford. I started in 1982. I met Jim Caveney in 1983. That’s another long story. :-)]

The trip to Berkeley was just a stroke of luck. Andreas and I (the entire “club” at that point) just decided on a whim to drive to Berkeley. We figured if we couldn’t find action at Stanford, we could *surely* find it at Berkeley. We didn’t know anyone in the footbag scene. Nobody at all. So, we just got in the car, and drove.

We were looking for people kicking hacky sacks. Any circle would have done. So we just drove around campus, and off campus, looking both for people playing hacky sack and a legal place to park. Imagine our surprise when after only a few minutes of driving around, Andreas screamed at the top of his lungs, “Steven, STOP the car!” I pulled over. He pointed over my left shoulder, up on a raised field. At first I just couldn’t believe my eyes. It simply wasn’t possible. It was like we’d arrived in Footbag Heaven. There was the first-ever footbag festival at Berkeley, complete with quite a few nets and seriously insane freestylers (like ET Constable) who Andreas and I just couldn’t believe were real. It was organized by the Berkeley Footbag Club, and that’s where I met Brent Welch. (He and Jody didn’t have the last name back then. :-)) But that’s another story for another day. Back to Stanford. 🙂

Next, David Ho and Mark the Mathematician joined the Stanford club. They were the first real students I would play with. We met every single week, first in the quad, then back in White Plaza where the club had started. (Andreas had to leave the country for a while; another long story. Suffice it to say I was the best man and witness at his impromptu wedding at the Palo Alto City Hall.)

Then Nina joined the club (she had a thing for Mark; he was a gymnast and a math Ph.D. student, where Nina’s brother was an assistant professor.) She had a penchant for slow reggae. Not the most conducive to our games. We often fought over the music. Jody, who joined in the next paragraph during this time, still to this day sometimes imitates Nina (“Steve, can we put on some reggae?!”).

Then before you know it, Brent and Jody showed up (pretty regularly, I might add, for quite a few years). They had formed (along with many others) the Berkeley footbag club, which hosted Western Regionals before we moved it to Stanford. Jody was probably the person who coached me, mentored me, and helped me with my freestyle :-), until much later when I got more serious and engaged the services of one Dennis Jones. But that’s another story. And once or twice I actually convince Julie Symons to show up.

Zander Nosler was in school at Stanford at the time, and he was a regular (I had met him in early 1987, and we later became bestest friends). Then there was Eric Anderson (I introduced Eric to Zander, through footbag, and they are now life-long best friends, both living in Seattle).

In fact, years later I was the one who introduced the little red-headed girl to Zander, and the rest is history (Megan and Zander got married not that long ago in the scheme of things). It was so cute. Zander was like, “hey, do you know that little red-headed girl?” And Megan was like, “Hey, Steve, what’s your friend’s name?” And the Rest Is History.

In 1992, the fall before we started running Western Regionals, Eric Anderson got the gumption to make SUFC an official university club, and the Rest, again, Is History. By the way, Eric hooked up with Nina. 🙂 There, the cat’s out of the bag. 🙂

It was around that time (in 1992) that I made the first footbag web-page on the Internet, on a server at Stanford that I had access to, even though I’d long since graduated. The Stanford Footbag Club’s online presence was born. 🙂 The second-ever university-sanctioned footbag club, but the first-ever *online* footbag club. 🙂 And by this time, my best tricks were rakes and osises (thanks, Jody).

Around that time, Mike Niday started making appearances (and still does to this day), as did several special visitors from all around the bay area (from Ed La Macchia, where we agreed to team up for many years as a pretty solid doubles freestyle team :-)) to Tonga (Dave Wedertz) to Lisa Monti, to Lisa McDaniel, to Dennis Jones, to Carol Wedemeyer, they graced our circle with their presence from time to time. Once I think I got Megan, Lisa Monti, and Carol Wedemeyer to actually do a demo at some dormitory event. That was fun, though it led to absolutely no new members for the club. (Recruiting was, and is, basically impossible. Yet, *somehow*, I always have at least 2 people to play with when I go each Tuesday.)

Then some random kid started showing up. Jeremy Nevin was his name. He couldn’t get enough. He found out about my circle somehow, and started playing regularly. He just lived a few minutes from Stanford. He not only came immediately after school on Tuesdays, but he forced me to meet him at White Plaza on Saturdays, too. He needed to be taught, and I was happy to oblige. On a SUFC trip to Berkeley to play with the club there, Jeremy met Dimitri Kavouras. Through their shared passion, they both developed into remarkable players. Jeremy, in fact, named Smear and Smudge, as well as a few other tricks (but who will remember, besides maybe Rippin and Dennis). Unfortunately, Jeremy died just a few years ago in a car wreck; Rippin dedicated his finals routine to Jeremy (I cried) at the 2000 Worlds in Vancouver.

Off and on during that time, we had some pretty insane pseudo-regulars. Like the guy Jody liked to call “Spaz” — to this day I can’t remember his real name (okay, I think it was something like “Keith”). People would see him years later at random tournaments and all they’d remember was Spaz. 🙂 In reality, I think Kevin Ritchie (for those of you who have been graced by his presence, especially in Europe last year) is actually Keith’s twin brother, somehow born a few years later or something. Anyway, playing with Spaz was Good Times.

Then it was the Next Generation, as Zander and Eric and the gang graduated or otherwise found other things to occupy their time (like the Welches, who heroically continued to show up after having at least one or two kids, finally couldn’t wrangle the kids *and* afford the time to freestyle, and of course, play net as well on other days). I’ll never forget the Stanford dorm-mates who defined the next couple of years of the club: Matt Stone and Ben Gallant, who was the president of the club ’til he graduated in ’98. (Ben showed up at the finals of Worlds in San Francisco last summer. It was so awesome to see him.) Price Lawhon also showed up, pretty regularly for a while, then just completely disappeared. I guess no great loss there. 🙂

There was Rob Fuller, too. A guy who kind of disappeared, but who left me with a nice bit of memorabilia.. a footbag with the name Brat embroidered on it. He was a geeky engineer type, but got into making footbags, and was generally fun to play with. Rob used to go to Pizz’a Chicago with me every Tuesday after the kick, for quite a while.

During that time, and into the next phase, we were graced with the presence of another prodigy, Jeff (Jboy) Gran. Another local kid from the same neighborhood as Jeremy Nevin, Jboy had a gift for the game. He almost never seemed to have to work to learn new tricks, and was *always* equally good on both his left and right sides. This kid had no flipside. Along with Jboy was his friend Chris, who could hit legbeater but couldn’t do two clippers in a row. 🙂 Chris made me a sculpture of myself for Christmas — wearing my geeky hat that I sometimes wore, and doing a frigidosis (a move, by the way, I invented). Those were great times. Not only was I learning hard tricks like blur and ripwalk (on one side), but Kevin Fine started showing up (a somewhat geeky mechanical engineering coterm student, who we liked to call “the claw” for obvious reasons). 🙂

Brian Kimball showed up, again I’m not sure how he found out about the circle (I guess it was that “internet” thing). He stayed with the club probably the longest of any person besides Kevin (and of course me). His contributions to my freestyle (in terms of forcing me to practice) and to are without description. There’s no way possible to thank Brian for all he’s done behind the scenes for footbag. So few people know that, which is the sad part. Brian, like so many other people in our club, ultimately just disappeared. 🙁

Anyway, one day around the time Jboy, Chris, Brian, and Kevin were playing with me at Stanford, I got one of the strangest phone calls I’ve gotten yet (and that’s saying a lot for a guy who’s hosted 12 tournaments). Some guy who just identified himself as “Red” called from San Diego. He told me he’d just driven to San Diego from Missouri and was wondering if I knew any kickers there. He was specifically looking for Big-Add Posse members. I think his exact words were, “Do you know the numbers of any Big-Add Posse members in San Diego? I’m looking for the Big-Add Posse.”

I told him, (and at the time it was true), “You won’t find any BAP members in San Diego, dude. They’re all up here. Why didn’t you call me *before* you drove all the way down there?!”

So, he got in his car, and drove up to the Bay Area. He was, after all, “looking for the Big-Add Posse”. And the Rest, as they say, Is History. Aside from frequent kicks with all the BAP members in SF and Berkeley (including but not limited to everyone you can think of), Red started playing with me and my Stanford posse. He was pretty fresh-off-the-boat when I met him (I never did quite teach him to master that damnable osis), but over time managed to get way better than I ever will be, and helped motivate Jboy, Brian, and Kevin along the way. It was, again, Good Times.

I’m sure I’m leaving things and people out, but that brings us pretty much up to the last few years.

With the exception of a one-year (or so) absence in the middle, Kevin has been with the club ever since (to this day). He comes almost without fail every Tuesday. Sometimes in the winter, he brings industrial lighting (or so it seems) to keep us from having to play in the dark. Kevin’s basically better than me now, which annoys me to no end. It probably doesn’t help that I retired from freestyle and basically just play 4-square at every session. And I can do that because of the kids (read below).

Ever since Ryan Mulroney graduated from Berkeley, when he’s in the country he shows up at Stanford, too. Almost without fail while he’s around, he graces us with his presence, and his music. I never have to worry about music when Ryan’s around — nor could I since he is kind of “controlling” that way. 🙂 [I could write a thesis on how footbaggers get when you mess with the music.]

We’ve had a few students come and go, but the last few years or so we’ve had another phD student showing up, this time a computer science geek (imagine that) named Ben Lynn. Ben’s been finding new heights to his game recently, finally understanding what I meant by “on the way up”. 🙂 He’s hitting all sorts of interesting tricks now. Ben finally went to an event in his native land of Aussie. So now he knows most of those players (lucky them :-)).

The most recent injection of fresh blood has been the Santa Clara footbag posse — Scrawny (Jonathan), Fryguy (Brian), Hector (Edgar), Pepe (Pepe), Adam, and random others they drag along. They make four-square challenging (but I still win 80% of the games) because of course they play every week with the best (that’d be me, or Ryan when he shows up). I just wish I could keep them out of the trees. Another long story.

Well.. That pretty much brings us to now. Hope you enjoyed it.

And of course — the plug: Anyone’s welcome at the Stanford Footbag Club’s REGULAR weekly freestyle and four-square sessions. We play almost without fail in White Plaza on the Stanford Campus, Tuesdays from 3:30-6pm. Just if you come, be prepared to accept the music you’re dealt. 🙂 And get ready to defend your square.

— more to be added soon from 2003 to 2008 —