Getting lost in the shuffle

Sunday, March 25, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:43 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Abbey Gallagher and Mike Kelly watch a disk glide down the board during a game of shuffleboard.

Shuffleboard was something that I could hardly spell, let alone play. But that’s just me. For a Romanian photojournalism student, the game was as foreign as the name of my country’s capital, Bucharest, would be for any average American. To most MU students, this game is as close to a “pastime” as you get in a dingy bar around here. Columbia is not famous for bar games. There are only a few places where people can play shuffleboard.

Out on Old 63, McGinty’s Pub is one of the closer places to campus that has a shuffleboard table. If you walk in on a Wednesday night, one of the first sounds you hear might be of the metal disks cracking. I have no idea what the game is about and that probably reads on my face. People are nice and willing to share their knowledge. A Boulevard in his hand, a player takes a break to let me in on a few key rules of the game.

The object lies somewhere around knocking your opponents’ disks off a salt-covered table, while keeping your own disks on. I try to understand, but the shouting and loud cackles of the other patrons combined with the muffled sounds of the jukebox speakers drown his voice. It doesn’t seem to affect the regular customers, who just shrug their shoulders and dance away.

The party peaks around midnight. The karaoke crowd is the only group louder than those who huddle around the salty surface of the shuffleboard table. Gradually, toward 1 a.m., the scene cools down and the patrons trickle out of the bar. The last song fades out and the bar is empty again.

Richard Bennett watches Kyle Ryder throw a disk during a game of shuffleboard while people dance in McGinty's in Columbia on March 7.
Joel Meyer throws a disk during a game of shuffleboard.
Kyle Ryder (front left) and Richard Bennett (front right) play shuffleboard against Mike Kelly (back left), Brian Simeone (back center) and Joel Meyer (back right) at McGinty’s in Columbia on March 7.

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