In terms of professional foosball tables and tournaments, Tornado has dominated the United States for better part of 25 years. Also known as table soccer, foosball is not often tied with Soccer promotions in the United Sates. Many foosball tables have attempted to enter the domestic tournament scene since the golden days of the 70's and early 80's, most have disappeared. Tornado became the dominant coin operated table found in game rooms, arcades, bars, pool rooms, college campuses, and bowling alleys across the nation. Tornado is not the exclusive foosball table currently part of tournament foosball in the United States. Tornado will be covered more in depth in future articles. This article will touch on Bonzini and Fireball tables currently promoting foosball in the United States. Then look at the return of Warrior Table Soccer which has recently announced a return to the domestic foosball market.
Bonzini is manufactured in France and commonly found across Europe. Bonzini USA (http://www.bonziniusa.com) was formed in 1998 and maintained a loyal niche of players on the east coast. The 38th annual North Carolina Foosball Championships to be held October 5-7th, 2012 is the "The Nation’s Oldest and Longest Running State Foosball Event". The style of play is radically different due to the composition and build of the Bonzini table. The surface is sticky, the foot of the player figure is smaller, and the ball does not roll perfectly true for a tic-tac style of play explaining why pin shots are more prevalent. The rods are telescopic and appear flush on the outside. The quality of the table is great regardless of any bias on the play style. The Bonzini is the highest priced production table available in the states though some Tornado Distributors are nearing this cost with extreme table markups beyond suggested retail cost. The Bonzini comes in a number of models in both coin operated and home model formats. A Handicap accessible is also a model option, a fact that warms this disabled fooser's heart. (http://www.cmtausa.org/)
The Bonzini has been commonly found in Europe for decades but never found roots domestically outside of the central east coast region. Bonzini USA President Alan Cribbs has been promoting for decades and importing the table from France for fourteen years. This track record speaks for itself in terms of success. Bonzini USA does host a small number of domestic tournaments and events. Many of these are to raise money for benevolent causes. Bonzini is well represented on the international tournament circuit and through participation in the International Table Soccer Federation multi-table events.
Fireball (http://fireballtablesoccer.com) is a table manufactured in China. engineered by Dennis Jiang, and has quickly gained international exposure. Fireball play is similar to the Tornado style of play so much that Tornado players will adjust in a couple hours of play. The Fireball table is more forgiving to the beginning player while still offering the ability to host top caliber play. Fireball hired the insanely talented, world champion Tony Spredeman as the official Fireball spokesperson. Tony travels to events globally and is one of the most dominant players of this century.
Fireball also offers multiple models including both home model and coin operated tables. Fireball USA is operated out of Washington State and President Brad Laurine has ran many Fireball promotions on the West Coast. Laurine made it a point to take Fireball on the road. Fireball USA quickly coordinated with many different promoters for a nationwide series of tournaments. Fireball USA created numerous new events and became the official tournament of the well established Bart O'hearn Memorial Foosball Tournament held yearly in Austin. The results of this exposure was pockets of Fireball tables across the country. Laurine went back on the road last year focusing on grass roots research and laying the ground work for another series of table soccer events including the $15,000 U.S. Open to be held in Albany New York later this
I attended the $4,000 Fireball Fort Worth Open. This is where I met Laurine for the first time and had my first chance to play on the Fireball table. Not only did the table play great, Laurine was in constant contact with Fireball Headquarters in China shooting back player feedback. Though it appeared Fireball was beta testing the table this was not the case. A newer version that was soon to swing into full production was already on hand. It was evident Fireball was committed to staying in touch at the ground level of play to continuously improve the product. I finished 5th in Open Singles.
Both Bonzini USA and Fireball USA are domestic cogs in their respective international wheels of table soccer. Both tables are members of the International Table Soccer Federation (http://www.table-soccer.org/). Tornado was an official ITSF table until the manufacturer decided to pull out of the organization last year. Now the Tornado is not even a "recognized table" by the ITSF. Players from the U.S. still travel for international play but no longer have the choice of playing on the Tornado table. Instead Team USA is forced to dub the Chinese built Fireball table as the home table.This choice is due to Fireball having the closest in play style to the Tornado. This has caused a disadvantage for the United States in international team play. One member of the squad and a Tornado World Champion told me the loss of the Tornado table was "the reason" the US finished with a bronze at the 2012 ITSF World Cup.
Tornado may not be the only table based out of the United States for long. Warrior Table Soccer has announced a return to foosball. Warrior Table Soccer is based out of California though the table manufacturing will be outsourced to China. Warrior Table Soccer is a subsidiary of the successful Warrior Custom Golf Clubs owned by Brendan Flaherty. The table first debuted nationally at the late 2003 $200,000 Warrior Indoor Outdoor Sports Extravaganza held at the Rio Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. This was and still is the largest single payout at a domestic foosball tournament. Warrior even had a professional film crew on hand to document the event ( http://youtu.be/VTyuujs8Eyk ).
I was in attendance at the $200K Warrior Tournament. The payout may have been record setting and deep but the turnout was not. Mostly due to the fact that the players were not yet willing to part with the Tornado. I spoke with the table lead as the event neared due to speculation the table would not make it from China in time for the event. Ken Oda was excited about the playability of the table and quick to put to rest any major concerns I had. I knew my primary shot, the rollover, was viable. The rollover was also the primary shot of Oda's. I went to the Warrior tournament with zero expectations of the untested tournament table. The table was not perfect but was a solid start. The surface ripped, the clear sealed wood handles were slick forcing the use of wrap, the balance of the man was not perfect, and the balls often hung up in the corrugated pvc tubing used for ball returns. The Warrior table did play consistently from table to table and absorbed jars well despite the light weight aimed at reducing shipping costs.The best I managed to finish for the weekend was 7th in Expert Singles. Flaherty and staff threw an excellent tournament.
Warrior backed away from nationwide promotions until 2008 when it became the official table of Independent Foosball Promotions (www.ifp.com). A improved version of the Warrior Table was introduced. Warrior and IFP joined to run a number of regional and major events. Debuting at the2008 Kentucky State Foosball champions as covered by Inside Foos (http://youtu.be/2xcuJPOVfNw). Warrior made strides into Texas, the home state of Tornado Foosball, with the purchase of the the Runaway Bay Country Club just north west of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metro Area. Players accrued points over the course of the tour that year for prize packages and sponsorship to a tournament event in Hawaii (http://youtu.be/uxU2EfScRuo.) IFP and Warrior dissolved their relationship. Independent Foosball Promotions reestablished ties to the Tornado table and the Warrior Table faded into the background. Warrior did not fully step out of foosball promotions. Runaway Bay hosted numerous tournaments on Tornado tables. Warrior also sponsored many benefit events and donated to other tournaments in a philanthropic fashion. Warrior is continuing this philanthropy by sponsoring the Junior National USA team to compete overseas in ITSF events.
Earlier this month Flaherty announced on The Foosball Board (www.foosballboard.net) that Warrior Table Soccer's Director of operations and Pro Master ranked player Fernado Rosa had completed the latest incarnation of the Warrior foosball table. Photos and official release notes are still forthcoming but Rosa did open the topic up for player questions. The table will be home model only despite years of whispers of a warrior coin op.
Flaherty has competed on the professional tour since the the 70's and has been upfront about having strong opinions on progressive changes in tables soccer rules over the decades. Number one on the changes is the advent of the rollover shot. Flaherty reluctantly announced that the shot would be legal on the Warrior table in most divisions of play. The the exception to this would be of the top level of Warrior Table soccer Events. Flaherty has been openly biased towards the immensely popular shot (For a history of the rollover check out the topic on the foosball board http://foosballboard.net/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=6800&highlight=history+rollover ). This controversial announcement will be a hot topic of conversation for some time. Warrior begins to amp up promotions in 2013 and many details have yet to be announced. The initial reaction of the rule adjustment was mixed but the overall reception of Warrior returning to the U.S. Foosball scene was very warm.
This rule change would make Warrior the lone table where the rollover
would not be universally legal across all divisions of play. Many top U.S.
players shoot the shot with active players yet to weigh in. Former World Champion and Louis
Cartwright was excited about the announcement despite the banning of
his primary forward shot. Louis stated this could bring him out of retirement. I witnessed firsthand Cartwright gambling with Oklahoma 5 time World Chamion Tommy
Adkisson in a duel of dead man pull shots. Louis hit 13 in a row losing
to Tommy's 14 in a row. Louis is no chump or stranger to shooting a pull shot on
the three bar.
I was excited to read that Warrior was returning to foosball. Domestic foosball as shrunk to epic lows. The re-entrance of a well funded and experienced entity is a good thing in my mind. Then I reread a post that Flaherty made in response to a troll that appeared on the board a few weeks before. Flaherty outlined the new rollover rules and echod his low opinion of the shot. I edited my post to state my disagreement with the ruling and that I would not play on a tour where I could not aspire with my primary shot to the top level of play. While I have faith I could have turned pro shooting a pull shot and could do so again. I do not have faith I could take my game to the top level of play shooting a pull shot. If I were forced to abandon a shot I have been using for 18 years and that has been legal for more than 25 years.
The progression Charcot Marie Tooth disease (www.cmtausa.org) in my forearms will not allow it. I am already fighting a uphill battle attempting to stand for the required long hours of regional tournament play. Tournaments take place over 3-5 days with playtime sometimes racking up to 16+ hours a day. I wear custom made Ankle Foot Orthotics, take medication to counteract the pain and other symptoms of a degenerative nerve disease,and limit my events to maximize success. Factor in using a shot that is dependent on forearm strength and requiring a balanced stance with firm footing is not feasible. I have shot a pull playing goalie to win many Open tournaments at the regional level. In my prime I could shot an effective long pull from the top of the wall to the long hole. As my disease as progressed I have had to reposition the origination of this shot to closer to me to allow for lost speed and stamina.
I applaud the return of Warrior but disagree with the rejection of the rollover at the top level of play. The shot is internationally accepted, applauded by spectators, and shot by many of the remaining foosers. The inclusion of the rollover at all levels of Warrior play would insure the acceptance of the table by modern players.