Colorado's been called the "spiritual home" of foosball, and a contender for the unofficial designation of global foosball capital. This weekend, the state will host about 300 players from around the world for the state tournament of the game formally known as table soccer.
Jerry Todd of Arvada is among those competing. He has two tables at home, and regularly invites his friends and competitors to practice. He says to him, foosball is a sport.
"A lot of people wouldn't believe this, but it is pretty physical," Todd says. "If you play foosball for three days in a row, your whole body feels it, you feel mentally drained. It can be quite exhausting."
He says some players develop injuries as a result. "Some people try to force shots and they'll have problem with their rotator cuff and different injuries like that."
Many of foosball's top players -- past and present -- call Colorado home, Todd says. But he's concerned about the lack of young players preparing to take their places.
"Video games definitely started the downfall of foosball," he says, referring to arcade games in addition to consoles in family homes. He says European and Asian countries are doing a better job than the U.S. at grooming the next generation of foosball champions.
This weekend's tournament takes place at the DoubleTree hotel in Thornton and it's free to the public. Amateurs are invited to play.
Click on the audio link above to hear Todd's conversation with Ryan Warner. Edited highlights from the conversation with are below.
Todd on why Colorado's a foosball hub:
"I believe it was 1974, and our very own Mike Bowers won [the first World competition in Colorado]. It's just kind of snowballed from there and it was followed by Tom Loffredo, who's probably recognized as world's greatest Foosball player. There just so many great Foosball players that have come through the area, and that's continued through the 80s, 90s and even today. [...]
"I think it has a lot to do with the people in Colorado. We just seem to be people who are always biking hiking, skiing -- we're always looking for some time of competition or activity. And a lot of times, especially when it gets cold out, people have a hard time finding that."
On the sport's gender imbalance:
"About maybe 15 percent of the players are women. There's competitions which are mixed, which is male-female so a lot of the guys have problems finding partners for those. Over in Europe, it's not that way. I would say it's more 60-40. So hopefully one day we can get it where it's 50-50, that would be great."
More on avoiding injury:
"I think if you have proper tech [injury] should never be an issue. Some people try to force shots and you know, they'll have problems with their rotator cuff and different injuries. [...]
"If you're absolutely just trying to crush the ball, you have to put a lot your whole body into it... you're putting hips into it, you're putting your arm into it, you're putting your wrist into it. You're putting everything to try and get that power. It's just like if you try and hit a baseball using only your arms, it's not going happen. You have to use your whole body. It's not only that, it's proper grip.. It's everything to have the proper technique. It doesn't take day or months to develop, it takes years."
What's special about foosball:
"It's not [a high-paying sport.] You know, that's one of the things I think is really special about Foosball, because anyone who does it, it's for the love. It's definitely not to make yourself famous or to get rich or anything like that. So anyone who's there in the room putting that much time, it just shows what a passion it is in their life."