Would trophies alone ever suffice for a prize?
"If I tap this putt in, I win my foursome by three strokes! I can't wait to get to the clubhouse and see how much the golf course is going to pay me..." "The band was great tonight, definitely worth the cover, and I danced all night. I was probably the best dancer, what do you think the payout is gonna be?" "Great movie, a surprise ending, but I knew the butler did it! That's worth at least a popcorn and a soda, right?"
Does the above sound ridiculous? Of course it does because there are costs to maintaining a golf course, hiring a band, and running a movie theater. The consumer pays in exchange for the entertainment provided; it's pretty simple. The same is true in cornhole as bags break, boards wear, and you need a competent person to run your tournament. However, the obvious sometimes gets a bit cloudy in the competitive cornhole world where some have arrived at the consensus that what you put in, you must get out! This concept was reinforced to me a week ago in a conversation that criticized a bar for taking some of the tournament entry fees to pay the DJ that was hired. Should the business a bar receives from hosting cornhole be enough profit? Should the person running the tournament be paid for bringing the equipment and facilitating the bracket (it's no secret how I feel about this)? Like many things, there is not a single answer. But, as more and more people begin hosting weekly tournaments, perhaps it is worth looking at the current model and considering some alternatives.
Most weekly events have adopted a format with a modest tournament buy-in (usually $5) and 100% payout; sometimes a bar may kick in more money with the hopes of drawing larger crowds. Others may not agree, but in my opinion, this format has done as much harm as good to the rise of cornhole. Right off the bat, the concept of 100% payout fosters a sense of entitlement among players that is not present in other recreation and entertainment activities. Are the cash prizes drawing more people to these tournaments? Prove it! I think the difference is negligible as cornhole is such a great game, it can stand on its own. Even with modest entry fees, there are complaints with the partner selection process in blind draws. And the more cash involved, it seems like the more problems! When a bar in Woonsocket offers a $300 prize, friends don't tell friends about it to avoid the competition. Nothing rubs people the wrong way and is more divisive than secret tournaments!
I've stated my issues with the current trend, so what's the alternative? For starters, let's properly categorize cornhole for what it is. Weekly cornhole events are meant to bring patrons to the bar on an off night just like trivia, paint nights, and karaoke. In the aforementioned, there may or may not be an entry fee and gift cards usually suffice as prizes. Oh, and the trivia jockey, paint night host, and karaoke emcee are paid by the bar. A note to bar managers, pay your tournament directors too! Very rarely, do you get things right on the first try, but if I think back to cornhole at Jake N JOE'S in 2012; that seemed like a format that worked! There was NO entry fee, the bar provided some great prizes (eg Yankees/Sox tickets), and the tournament director was compensated. Oh, and the crowds were no larger or smaller than what is seen at weekly tournaments today! For bars thinking about hosting their own cornhole night, I would recommend this format and if you value your liquor license, become familiar with the following Massachusetts Laws.