The first time Ray Tattersall played cornhole was at a friend’s annual Fourth of July cookout in 2017: “I was a pitcher in the men’s slow-pitch softball league, so it was an easy thing. I went home that day and looked up ‘cornhole,’ and learned how people throw the bags. It’s like an underhand Frisbee thing. You try to throw it so it comes out flat.”
Anyone can play, regardless of gender, Tattersall says; “it’s not about strength or anything, all that matters is consistency and technique.”
After that, Tattersall started playing weekly with some friends, and less than a year later, organized his first cornhole tournament at the P.A. Club to raise money for the Richie Madeiras charitable foundation. They played with boards made by his friend and frequent cornhole partner, Billy Panek, and with bags bought at the Lazy Frog in Oak Bluffs. From then on, Tattersall was hooked, and runs a fundraising tournament every six months or so.
In November 2021, Tattersall secured the upstairs space at Barn, Bowl & Bistro for his weekly cornhole league. Anyone can join, regardless of skill level, and all are made to feel welcome. “You don’t have to be good to come play with us. Just come play. You have fun and meet other people,” Tattersall said.
Tattersall arrives more than an hour early to set up, and is soon joined by Kenny Maciel, who helps. Tattersall says Maciel is “our cornhole addict. He’s been playing since November, and he’s our biggest junkie.” As more players arrive, the energy rises. There is laughter and conversation. The more serious players practice throwing, and others take the opportunity to enjoy some food and drinks. At 6 pm, the round robin begins. Mini tablets sit upon the score towers by the boards, and players enter their scores into the Scoreholio app, hit send, and scores and rankings show up on the two giant TVs that hang on the wall — unless, of course, there is a Bruins or Celtics game on, then the scores are displayed on one of the TVs and the game is on the other.
All are truly welcome upstairs at the Barn, and it is really a family affair. Bob Burnham, the oldest player in the league at age 81, and his wife, Yvonne, come every week. Yvonne watches while Bob and their daughter Jennifer throw. Sometimes matches don’t end until as late as 10:30, but Bob says of Yvonne, “she’s my fan club!” and Yvonne says she doesn’t mind because she gets dinner out of it. Each week, Bob and Yvonne have dinner downstairs before heading up for the league.
Another family in attendance each week is the Maciel clan. Polly cheers on as her husband Bobby and daughter Robyn throw. And Kenny and Bobby are cousins, and are often joined by Kenny’s sister Amy. Bobby and his family live on the Island, and help take care of their elderly parents; he says this is their only night out, and wouldn’t miss it.
Rachael Wilson started throwing in November, and says it was just something to do on Tuesdays in the winter. When Wilson accidentally tossed her bag up into the lights (which Tattersall admits are lower than they should be if this were a “regulation” space), she joked, “It’s mortifying when this happens, but all are welcome!”
Another cornhole family member, Elissa Decosta, was happy to share with me that she got an airmail tonight, and John Cohen (one of the first players to arrive each week) says, “It’s a good way to get out of the house, a great relief from COVID.”
From the sidelines, you can hear cheers like “Show ’em how, Bob” or “Nice shootin’.” Even the biggest opponents can be seen and heard cheering each other on.
When the league began, there were just about the same 12 or 14 players each week. Now there are 12 to 14 teams consistently every Tuesday, and Tattersall hopes that anyone interested will come on down to the Barn and throw with them: “Our biggest thing now is to try to get more people to play with us. It’s not about how good you are, it’s just about playing, trying to grow this league, and having fun.”
And if fun isn’t incentive enough, you can always hope to win the Air Mail Challenge, like Mike Horrigan did. He won $110, and amid the cheers you could hear, “Drinks are on Mike!”