Daily News - August 22, 2005
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Downtown, it's play (Foos)ball!
BY JIMMY VIELKIND
DAILY NEWS WRITER
Visitors to Down the Hatch on W. Fourth St. are greeted by the smell of spilled beer and hot wings, fraternity pheromones that waft through most of the bars around NYU.
Around a dark corner sits another throwback to college life - a Foosball table.
But surprisingly, the people playing are not college students but "Foosers" who take the game more seriously than the average toga partygoer ever did.
The Foosers converge on the bar every Tuesday night for a low-stakes "draw your partner" tournament that attracts about a dozen people a week.
They spend the evening manipulating a series of rods that control little soccer player figurines, moving a small ball down a mock field.
Their king is John Back, a 41-year-old school administrator from Long Island, who was recently named the New York metro area's top Fooser by nycfoosball.com.
Earlier this summer, Back took on all comers for two straight weekends at the posh SoHo boutique Replay. The event drew 440 people over five days from as far away as Italy and France.
Back beat all but two.
He found a challenge in Victor Lam, 33, a computer programmer who came down from Murray Hill. Lam and his girlfriend, Ryan Thompson, 25, are at Down the Hatch every week.
"He gets me when I'm tired," Back explained.
Lam managed to beat him the first weekend of the Replay tournament, but Back rallied, winning the next two games the following weekend.
"Oh, whack!" one onlooker exclaimed after Lam tied the score in the second game and a crowd began to gather around the contenders.
"That's the thing about this game, it's a cheap way to stardom," Back said, noting that his matches often have spectators.
One year, he won $5,000 in tournaments from Boston to Colorado, and he's even given private lessons.
"And this is a hobby," he said, grinning.
Originally published on August 21, 2005