The retired Columbus police officer has won foosball competitions across the world.

The top foosball players can all shoot the ball hard. So hard, the sphere becomes an impossible-to-see blur.

“There are a lot of people who can score every time,” says Steve Beine, who adds that the best players are the ones who shoot hard and also can control the midfield (the five-man row of players). “They can’t get the ball if they can’t control the midfield and then … they can just watch me play.”

And shoot.

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Beine, 59, a retired Columbus cop, knows how to control the midfield. He was inducted into the United States Table Soccer Association’s Hall of Fame in 2015, has won singles and doubles tournaments around the world and served as captain of the U.S. senior team for the International Table Soccer Federation World Cup in Spain in July. It’s the foosball equivalent of soccer’s World Cup.

“I’ve won hundreds of titles; I lost count,” Beine says.

As you may have guessed, confidence isn’t a problem for Beine. Neither is intimidation. He’s 6-feet-5 and 245 pounds and looks larger when he’s standing across the foosball table from an opponent. When he’s in the zone, his shots sound like claps of thunder. “It’s like your body knows what to do without thinking,” he explains. The ball seems connected to the foot of his forward, who dances back and forth across the table, dipping, feinting and searching for an opening. When he sees one … bam!

“It’s the fastest shot you’ll never see,” Beine says of his blasts.

Steve Parker first began playing with and against Beine back in the late 1970s. “He’s one of the greatest ever, top 15 for sure,” Parker says. “It’s his dedication and his hard work.”

Beine grew up on the West Side in what he describes as “the federal projects. … It was a rough neighborhood.” He first started playing foosball in the 1970s when “there were pool halls and game rooms everywhere, and they all had three or four [foosball] tables. You’d walk in, and there would be quarters lined up on the tables. If you kept winning, you could play all night and make some good money.”

He began playing the pro foosball circuit in 1978, often traveling to tournaments by bus. It was a rough world, filled with hustling, gambling and the occasional fight. “Back then foosball was so much bigger,” Beine says. “Every week, there was a big-money tournament. I won a tournament in St. Louis in 1979, won $25,000 and bought my first house with it.”

And then along came video games.

“Everyone wanted to play ‘Centipede’ and ‘Ms. Pac-Man,’ and it’s still that way today,” Beine says. “How many pool halls do you see today?”

Not many.

“But foosball is making a comeback, it’s growing,” Parker says.

“It’s huge in Europe,” Beine adds. “It’s huge in Germany, in Spain; in every bar, there’s a foosball table.”

The brand of foosball the top pros play is several levels above what’s typically seen in bars and basements, and what Joey and Chandler played on Friends. Beine likes to use a comparison to the genteel lawn tennis the British upper class played in the 1800s to explain the difference: “They’re serving underhanded and then, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, here comes Pete Sampras with a modern racket serving it 100 miles an hour past them.”

The Columbus Square Bowling Palace on the North Side is the Central Ohio hub of foosball. Players gather every Tuesday evening for practice, and there’s a tournament every Friday night. “Everyone puts in $20, and the top three players split the money,” Beine says.

Over his long foosball career, Beine has seen his share of ups and downs. An on-duty motor vehicle accident resulted in a chronic back problem. Beine recently suffered a detached retina in his right eye and underwent emergency surgery.

“When you play for as long as I have, there are ebbs and flows,” he says. “I just went through a down period where it was hard to stay motivated and practice.”

The World Cup in Spain reinvigorated Beine. He’s been crushing the competition at the local Friday night tournaments and placed third in the doubles tournament at the 2019 Arnold, which drew most of the country’s top players. “I still love competing at the highest level,” Beine says.

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