Rural Missouri - January 2011 - (Page 23)
Billiards meets bowling
Fredericktown man combines two classic games to create new sports sensation
“Even the dimensions of the pockets are the same, just a lot bigger.” Playing “Knokkers” requires skills from both of the games from which it is derived — the bilhere aren’t many things in this world that liards game 8-ball and bowling. Just as when you’re make Steve Wienecke look small. Standing 6 playing 8-ball, you must have an understanding of feet 4 inches tall and weighing in at around angles and how to use the rail to shoot your balls, 270 pounds, this former semi-pro football and not your opponent’s, into the pockets. And, you player and cage fighter casts a large shadow. must also be able to throw the ball accurately, as in But step into his backyard south of Fredericktown bowling, because there is no cue stick. and everything, including Steve, shrinks in stature. All shots are taken while standing on the playing Here, in a space large enough to encompass an surface and not from the rail or outside the table, in-ground swimming pool, Steve has built what he just as Steve envisioned back in 1985. The game believes is the world’s largest regulation-size pool begins by breaking the rack of 15 numbered balls, table. At nearly 30 feet long and 15 feet wide, the which includes eight solid-colored balls, including table and the hybrid game played on its surface — a the 8-ball, and seven striped balls. As when you combination of billiards and bowling that Steve calls bowl, you must remain behind the scratch line. The “Knokkers” — are the culmination of an idea 25 player who pockets the first ball determines who years in the making. plays solids and who plays stripes. “Back in 1985, I was playing in From there the rules essentially follow a pool league, and I thought it’d be that of 8-ball, with one exception. After so neat to be playing up on the table,” each shot, you’re allowed to pick up the recalls the member of Black River Electric cue ball. However, once you touch the Cooperative. “I didn’t know how it would • cue, you’re not allowed to move your work, but I knew it’d be fun.” Fredericktown feet. “Long arms are definitely a big Though he works as a probation and advantage,” says Steve with a smile parole assistant during the week, Steve as he raises his hands and displays his always has considered himself an inventor. enormous wingspan. “But anyone can play, even His tinkering over the years has included a wide vakids. My kids and grandkids love to play.” riety of products, from an indestructible mailbox to True to his billiards roots, Steve doesn’t believe in hospital furniture to gasoline-powered hand tools. playing “slop,” or scoring shots that you didn’t inAfter letting his idea of a giant pool table linger for tend to pocket. Despite being supersized, he says his more than two decades, he finally decided to build “Knokkers” table plays just like a regular-size table. it in 2008. “If you can throw a hook in bowling, you can “I knew they couldn’t tell me there was another even get massé shots,” he adds. “That ball will grab one of these down the street,” he says, referring to the carpet and curl. It’s pretty intense.” the response some of his other inventions had reWhile the table at Steve’s home in Madison ceived. “My wife, Tina, thought it was a little crazy. County is permanent, it gave him confidence in his But when she saw the first game, she said, ‘You have idea and the ability to show proof of concept. Soon something here.’” his cousin, Sam Sparks, and a friend, Rick Skaggs, With help from local businesses who donated decided to partner with him in his endeavor. materials, Steve’s new gaming table took 200 hours With a patent pending on the table and a tradeto build. In the process, he used 38 railroad ties, five mark in place for the game, the men have built a truckloads of gravel and 4-1/4 yards of concrete. He portable version of the table. Constructed entirely of bought used bowling balls from the alley in town. plastic, this second-generation table can be moved “It’s exactly like a regulation pool table, only evfrom venue to venue and even includes ball returns. erything is scaled up to four times the size,” he says.
by Jason Jenkins email@example.com
Above: Steve Wienecke sits on the rail of his “Knokkers” table, which is four times the size of a regulation pool table. The supersized game combines pool and bowling. Below: Steve attempts to break the rack to begin the game. The balls weigh 6 pounds each. Sam, who makes bowling balls, designed a custom “Knokkers” ball that weighs 6 pounds and is virtually unbreakable. “You could dribble them up and down your driveway if you wanted,” Steve says. “They won’t dent or chip.” Steve says the group’s next step is to find additional investors to take the game to the next level. He envisions a market for “Knokkers” that includes theme parks, cruise ships, restaurants and even individual independent franchises. “We talked about a lot of ideas, but it’s all going to depend on the investors,” says Steve, who says one of his goals is to see the Budweiser Clydesdales kick a game of “Knokkers” in a future Super Bowl commercial. It seems the only things bigger than Steve’s game are his dreams for it. “We’re hoping this game will be around for 300 years.” For more information about Steve’s invention, you may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-7837427, or visit his website at www.knokkers.com.
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