Gather round young ones, and hear tales of an old Foosballer. In my prime, there was a shot named after me. A broken goal backstop testified to my power. A dozen broken figures hung from my neck like so many plastic ears. Fear me! Hear me!
I was a fair foosballer in my day. I only played Defense, never offense. I’ve just never been comfortable with 5 and 3. My favorite version of the game was Goalie wars. Turn all of the offensive players up, and beat on each other from the defensive positions. Between two good defenders, the ball can fly right off the table. Luckily, Goalie Wars is a niche competition in Foosball, so there usually aren’t many spectators around to get hit.
The foosball table in college was under my care. Solemnly at the beginning of each year, I was handed the cleaning supplies with the strictest instruction never to use them. You see, a Foosball playing surface does not achieve its true grit or “play” until it has had a funnel’s worth of beer left on it overnight. I came to the belief that pizza cheese had its role in the “play”. Balancing sticky beer with greasy cheese is a maintenance nightmare. We had the good fortune to have parties with just the right balance of alcohol and grease to compliment our playing style.
That guy who threw an empty keg at a fire truck once would apologize for scoring a “dirty” goal. Yes, we were foosball gentlemen, Table Soccer snobs, if you will. As our art advanced, the simple rules of the bar no longer sufficed. Respect was earned only after a long tenure as a contender. Foosball was tiered as an informal king of the hill. There was always a senior with more power or guile than anyone else who would capture the table from the party guests. A casual game could turn into a year’s waiting grudge match anytime before the funnel of beer was spilled over the playing field. If the match was between true Titans, towels were quickly stolen from any unlocked rooms. Amid choruses of “Squeegee!”, we’d wipe up… making sure not to disturb the vital buildup underneath.
My greatest controversy as Foosball custodian came when a brother spilled a bottle of vodka onto the table. I decided that the “play” had been irrevocably altered, for the worse. The only solution I saw before me was to start over. The brothers nervously gathered from time to time over the next two days as I cleaned and re-leveled the playing surface, replaced all the broken parts, and resealed all of the playing rods. The unveiling was a tense moment. My pride gleamed as the table shone under my new “stadium lighting”. X-Mass lights stuck into the ceiling. My little men shone with their four-way shadows as one after another, the brothers leaned on the corners and spun the bars.
“Sounds different” as the ball hit the playing field for the first time. Then he tried to trap the ball. He clamped down on the ball, intending to press it into the playing field. Zzzzzip. It shot out from under his player, flying off the table into the gathered crowd. Luckily, it hit in a very funny place, so no one blamed me but the victim. He wasn’t in any shape to do anything, so I turned my attention back to the table. “Obviously, the table is far too dangerous to be left in its current condition. Just look at Mike crawling around on the floor there.” We realized that either blood or beer would spill that night, so we each gave a small measure of suds to the cause. As the days passed, we were once again able to play Goalie Wars without safety glasses, and the rhythm of wet/dry cycles resumed. So important for a good “play”