by Benjamin Kochuyt
The Gospel of Hack
A medley of shouts ring out across the connecting streets of Speaker’s Circle. From a distance, their message is indiscernible. But on closer inspection, the hostility becomes quite clear.
Opposing groups lash out in spurts, competing in a chaotic volley of ideals, both vying for the upper hand, searching for a way to publicly embarrass the other into submission and acceptance. One man stands in front of a group of students, reading from the Bible, randomly choosing passersby to insult. The students who stop join the mob of their peers that are already engaged in attempts to bully the preacher into silence.
One man, however, seems to have a different approach to spreading his message. Standing in his own corner of Speakers Circle, clothed in nothing but worn down sneakers and some small red shorts, his thin limbs flourish with an uncanny grace for someone who is 52 years old.
Derrick Fogle is Columbia’s infamous “Hack Man,” and he prefers to speak with a beanbag rather than words.
Fogle has been playing Hacky Sack (also known as footbag) at Speakers Circle for nearly 20 years, which has made him somewhat of an urban legend on the MU campus. Every week, he gathers up his iPod, speaker, camera and hacky sacks for a trip to campus. He plays for as long as he feels like it and then packs up and heads home, simple as that. He doesn’t make the trip so that he can talk, even though its called Speakers Circle. He simply goes there to be seen doing what he loves.
“Hacky Sack cleans my soul,” Fogle siad, “It makes me feel beautiful (…) I want everyone to know they can share that joy.”
He means it, too. Fogle has been promoting the sport since he was 17, when his older brother exposed him to it in the mountains of Colorado. Ever since then, Hacky Sack has shaped Fogle’s life in dramatic ways. Looking back, Fogle said Hacky Sack saved his life.
“I wanted to get good, so I left all that stuff like soft drugs and petty vandalism behind me,” he said. “[Hacky Sack] has been the foundation for my entire skill set and my success.”
Success has been plentiful in Fogle’s life, too. He has two children, a 17-year-old son and a 20-year-old daughter whom he said he loves abundantly. He also has a wife of 29 years and a career working with computers that allowed him to see some of the first PCs and Macs to ever roll off the assembly line. Besides that, Fogle is an avid environmentalist. He loves to bike, and over the course of his life in Columbia, he has biked over 150,000 miles that he would have otherwise driven in a car. Still, he attributes nearly all of his work ethic and success to his career as the “Hack Man.”
Fogle spent most of his early career in the Kansas City area, where he began to organize tournaments for other hacky sack players and even started a hacky sack club. Before he had Speakers Circle, he religiously practiced his skills at JC Nichols Fountain in Kansas City. His main focus for the first 14 years of his career was promoting the sport to those who had never been exposed to it and competing in world championships. It was at these international contests that he met one of his fiercest competitors, Scott Davidson, who claims to hold the current world record for the most days consecutively playing footbag. He said he hasn’t missed a day in the last 11-and-a-half years.
“Derrick is one of the rare old-school players who is stull playing,” Davidson said. “His years of running footbag tournaments brought exposure to the sport throughout the Midwest and introduced many players to the sport throughout the years.”
Fogle’s dedication made him one of the top competitors in the world and even got him accepted into the Footbag Hall of Fame in 2005. However, as the sport began to grow, Fogle said he began to see a paradigm shift that put him at odds with the rest of the footbag community.
“It started to only be about the competition,” he said. “We had turned our backs on the base of what the sport was.”
Fogle, who first fell in love with footbag because of its friendly and non-judgmental atmosphere, said that the sport went through a long phase where that atmosphere began dying.
“It was killing the sport,” he said. “I wanted to get back to my roots (…) so I decided to stop competing.”
Because of that decision, Fogle said he fell out of favor with many of his longtime friends who disagreed on how to advance the sport. But, he was unmoving in his philosophy. He said he knew hacky sack was a sport rooted in pushing boundaries and coming together, not avoiding mistakes and chasing conformity.
Now, Fogle’s focus is completely centered on spreading the lessons he has learned from Hacky Sack to those who will listen. One such person is Lance Doughman, a senior at MU who likes to join Fogle at Speakers Circle. He pointed to the Hack Man as a huge reason why he still plays Hacky Sack.
“[If I hadn’t met Derrick] I probably wouldn’t have played on a regular basis at all.”
The Hack Man sees himself as an antithesis to the “hate preachers” who regularly advocate for their religious beliefs at Speakers Circle.
“It doesn’t matter what you find salvation in,” Fogle said. “Everyone finds it differently. But I found mine in Hacky Sack. I just want people to see that if you work hard enough and you really sink yourself into something, you can succeed. Everyone can have this joy.”
Fogle said he wants to continue spreading the gospel of hack for as long as his body will let him – not with his words, but with his quiet meticulousness and flowing grace. So next time you see him, take a minute to watch him tell you all the things he doesn’t need to say.