It's been exactly six years since I rolled off Interstate 70 and discovered my first footbag tournament, witnessing with awe the footbag phenomena of a "stall," a "spike," "shredding," and "footbag net" Footbag is indeed a magical metaphysical game, unique among the athletic disciplines. Yet if we truly aspire to turn the world on to footbag, we must be willing to do the footwork involved.
It was while playing footbag with Indian people on the slopes of Central American volcanoes that I stumbled upon my true source of power and my greatest gift. My personal joy in dancing and connecting with a stranger through footbag found its perfect manifestation as a tool of citizen diplomacy and peace education. The footbag connection has worked as well in Guatemala, bridging barriers between "gringos" and "indios," as it did in cultivating self-esteem and peer communication among juvenile delinquents in the USA. We who love the game must go with this magic, utilize it, and cultivate it. We must play to our strength!
It sometimes saddens me to see so much focus on the competitive side of footbag while the world remains largely ignorant of our great game. Competitive footbag encourages a core group with extreme talent, but categorizing folks as "competitors" and "spectators" can cast an elitist light on the society of footbag. This is not to say there is no place for footbag competition. On the contrary, there will always be the '"quest to be the best," and competition is an enormous thrill, both to participate in and to watch.
But the greatest magic of footbag remains for me the uncanny way the game has of drawing people together, regardless of their social background or playing experience. Footbag is no ordinary game and its power for uniting people personally, energetically, and physically is legendary. Footbag players speak of experiencing collective bliss, when the energy of the circle captivates and transforms the separateness of individual athletes.
Because it is intrinsically cooperative... Because it resonates intimately with nearly every culture (including American sub-cultures, e.g., skinheads, Deadheads, yuppies, jocks, etc.)... Because it's a total body sport and an exquisite aerobic workout... Because footbag is just about the sweetest dance to come out since the cosmos got so weighed down... Lovers of footbag must take it to the streets, share it, celebrate it!
Last September during the American Athletic Games in New York's Central Park I watched the crowd, wide-eyed and awestruck over the men's doubles footbag net final. Since I've seen lots of hot net, I had the luxury of watching the faces of those New Yorkers (Sunday walkers, bikers, bladers, and joggers) as they realized the athletic feat they were witnessing. Needless to say, they dug it!
Now picture this: The height of the moment... All those people would be gathered there in Central Park grooving on this wild, never-before-seen foot game... The announcer's voice calls a short break in the action and then: "Folks, the beauty of this sport is that everybody has a role to play. Thirty footbag professionals are out there, and each one has two or three bags on 'em. I invite you now to circle up with the pros. You all have five minutes to see why we'd rather kick than fight!" For a few seconds people are shy and reluctant, having just witnessed the best in the world.
But in a moment some kids and bolder adults are sucked into ad hoc learning circles and are experiencing their first flush of success - that satisfying "thud" of the bag on one's sneaker. For five brief minutes, the sounds of laughter and learning between the pros and the first-timers can be heard filtering across the field. Can you see it?