BRADENTON, FL - In the student ministry annex of 2nd Baptist Church, youth minister Vinnie Pitzer leans back in his chair and smiles. "I've been doing youth here for about three years, and I've always been pretty good at foosball. But in the past few months I've been foosing almost every single day - really working on my game. This kid won't know what hit him."
"This kid" is Doug Myers, an area middle schooler who's been hanging around youth events for a few weeks. Shy and gawky, Myers mumbles that Vinnie "seems cool, I guess." Asked about his foosball skills, Myers claims to have played "a few times, I guess."
"Vinnie can be intense," notes David Sobel, a member of the youth group, "But when he plays foosball he gets pretty erratic. Most of us know not to play him. Don't get me wrong - he's unstable during basketball, flag football, ultimate frisbee, scavenger hunts, skits, video games, computer games, Bible studies, sermons, and one-on-one conversations - in general he sees all of life like a competition that's intrinsically tied to his self-worth. But the wheels really come off during foosball."
Freshman Brian Stokes agrees. "I've played Vinnie twice, and both times he said some things that made me uncomfortable. It's not just the 'BOOMshakalakas,' or that he yells, 'When the foos-ball drops the [expletive] stops,' or even the way he screamed 'Are you not entertained?!' after he won once - when we were the only two people in the room. I just felt really weird when he looked me in the eye and said, 'I hope God has mercy on you, because I won't.' That was the last time I played him."
"Am I competitive? A little bit," admits Pitzer. "I played JV football in high school, free safety, so there's a junkyard dog in me for sure. I tone it way down with the kids though. This is church, after all. Anyway, I gotta run. Dougie Fresh, you ready?"
"I guess," came a timid reply.