COLUMBIA — Almost every Thursday, a guy wearing red gym shorts can be seen on Speakers Circle kicking a small, crocheted bag to upbeat music.
To everyone else, he is Derrick Fogle, a 46-year-old MU systems administrator and father of two.
Since moving to Columbia in 1993, Fogle has raised a family, been admitted to the Footbag Hall of Fame and established a broad Web presence, hoping to inspire others and chronicle the life of an aging footbag player and former world champion.
His claim to fame may be footbagging, a game played by stylistically kicking around a small bean-filled bag trademarked as Hacky Sack. But his professional background is in computers and technology, having graduated from Johnson County Community College in 1984 with an electronics degree.
Fogle decided last year to merge the two.
Online, his accounts are connected under the same user name: h4x354x0r, a computer-slang spelling of the term hacky sacker.
“It took me a while to come up with my computer geek ID,” Fogle explained. “What’s gonna be so weird that it won’t be taken but still be meaningful to me?”
In the span of a year, he has launched a Twitter account for professional contacts, a Facebook profile for family and footbag friends, a YouTube channel for the videos he shoots of himself, and a blog where he journals his life and his footbagging.
“I started this footbagging journal at 45, so I’ve been doing it for almost a year,” Fogle said. "My goal is to keep something going for up to five years.”
As of Sept. 28, Fogle had uploaded 45 videos to his YouTube channel, most of them two-minute-or-less clips of him performing routines at Speakers Circle or Stankowski Field. His videos typically get anywhere from 20 to a few hundred hits. A few even have ratings.
He has 13 subscribers on YouTube, and 97 users follow his tweets.
Although he hasn’t quite amassed an online empire yet, Fogle isn’t discouraged.
“I’d love to get more popular, and it’s a vague dream to get this broad unique user moniker that I can establish online and maybe even monetize off of,” said Fogle. “But I don’t expect that, I’m not banking to be some ludicrous online sensation. That’s like winning the lottery.”
Though his online presence is relatively new, he watched the dot-com craze of the early ’90s take off and considered taking part.
“That was back when you had to pay $75 a year for a URL,” he said with a smile. “If I had invested a few thousand dollars in URL’s back then, I wouldn’t need to work for the university today.”
Out of school, he worked as a printer installer and repairman. It was through this job that he met his wife, Ida.
The two eventually began dating and Fogel introduced her to the sport. After marrying in 1986, they went on to contend in tournaments and set records.
“I set the first men’s record for five-minute timed consecutive (hits) with 857 kicks,” Fogle said. “My personal best ended up being 954.”
According to the Footbag Web site, the current record is 1,019 kicks.
Ida is the current record holder for the women’s five-minute consecutive with 804.
She describes footbagging as a “blessing” to her and her husband.
While the Fogles continued competing and setting records after the birth of their daughter 14 years ago, things slowed down when they had their son three years later.
“(My record) was set when my daughter was 2,” said Ida Fogle. “Then the second child came along. Having kids was like weird math. One plus one equals five in terms of workload.”
Despite the Fogle lineage in footbagging, it doesn’t look as though the sport is going to be a family affair.
“The kids have tried it before, but I’m not going to drive them to Hacky Sack,” said their father. “I’m going to drive them to find something to teach them about passion and dedication. Hacky Sack did that for me.”
Fogle first discovered footbag in the summer of 1980, on a trip to visit his father in Dillon, Colo., Fogle, 17 at the time, accompanied his brother to a party where he saw a group of people kicking a strange object around and soon joined in.
“I swear I was one of the worst people at it,” said Fogle. “Just swing and a miss, swing and a miss.”
Despite his initial ineptitude, Fogle was
hooked. Motivated by the group’s encouragement in spite of his lack of skill,
he started practicing using small round
rocks so he could “hold his own in the hacky circles.”
“It was one of my first physical pursuits, and I really liked it,” said Fogle. “I started practicing, and here I am almost 30 years later and I never stopped.”
After a few years, Fogle eventually got into the tournament scene. The first footbag tournament he entered was held in Kansas City in 1986, where he won the freestyle event.
Fogle credits footbag with more than keeping him in exceptional shape for a man nearing 50 — he also said the sport helped him turn his life around to a positive direction.
“Really, when I was a teen, I had a lot of problems,” he said of his troubled past. “Getting into footbag was something I loved, and it straightened up my act.”
Almost 30 years later, he hasn’t forgotten where he came from. In his competitive years, he would often preach the salvation of footbagging during tournaments; but now he realizes what empowers you to change is less important than the empowerment itself. That’s the message he hopes to share.
“I learned how much hard work it took to be successful and stay that way,” he said. “The truth is it’s not going to do something for everyone, but everyone needs to find something like that in their life. That’s awesome.”