Turbo Bocce’s annual quest to scientifically determine the best bocce player in Syracuse came with a little something extra this year . . . all the drama and excitement of a Hollywood summer blockbuster.
(Read this in the deep voice of that guy who does practically every movie commercial) In a world where there can be only one survivor, and competitors fall in every round, one man rises above and fights to advance – until he comes face to face with his own partner. Who will win, and who will be destroyed? This time, its personal!
I’d love to detail the drama of each and every game played in this event, because in my opinion the quality of the bocce was phenomenal. However, this was a marathon eight hour tournament, that produced an unprecedented number of aces and bocces, and covering it in the detail it deserves would take another eight hours which, of course, is way too long for any summer blockbuster. So I’ll start at the most logical place, with Monica Angelosanto – last year’s winner.
Monica tore through the tournament last year with very little drama, going undefeated in what was for everybody else a double elimination tournament. This year continued where last year left off, with Monica winning her way to the elite 8 of the winners bracket. There she met Robb Jones, our league’s point leader, and suffered a close loss which was her first ever in a one-on-one tournament.
Elsewhere, Mike Aylesworth was looking like a very possible champion, making it to the final 4 of the winners bracket in dominating fashion before losing a game to first place Los Moppines member Greg Griffo in a game where Mike made every shot you need to make to win and Greg was able to knock most of those should-be-winning shots out.
It was that kind of a day, both in the general sense that a lot of perfect shots were ruthlessly knocked away, and in the specific sense that no matter how good anybody seemed to play, nobody was able to beat Greg Griffo. He won through a murderer’s row of Turbo Bocce All-Stars to emerge as champion of the winners bracket – specifically he beat John Bauman, George Christou, Scott Mead, Mike Aylesworth, and Phil Martino. You’d have a hard time picking a more difficult run to the championship if you tried, but Greg was able to win all those games and earn the enviable position of being the person you have to beat twice in a row in the finals to win, something that up to this point I’d never seen happen ether in this tournament or in the Italian Fest.
Of course, this years losers bracket was no ordinary losers bracket. It was exceptionally strong, and it included Monica Angelosanto, who has already proven she can rattle off long unbeaten streaks. She started again, beating Rick Heffernan (a guy I have to give kudos to for knocking me out of the tournament even though I felt that I played pretty well) and setting up a match-up with Bryan Mullane.
Bryan is an interesting story. He had to work in the morning, but really wanted to compete in our tournament, so he signed up, forfeited his first round game while he still had to work, then rushed to Onondaga Lake Park to play in the losers bracket. Technically its still possible to win a double elimination tournament if you lose (or forfeit) your first game, but practically speaking its just about impossible. Since everyone but the ultimate winner eventually ends up in the losers bracket, you have to play a lot more games if you lose early than you do if you keep winning, and of course you can’t afford to lose any of them. I have never seen anybody make any noise in a double elimination tournament after losing their first game. Bryan was the exception.
He beat Meg Dyer, George Christou, and James Blair before running into one of the hottest players of the day Mike Aylesworth. Mike looked to have the game won before a late debocce, opened the door for Bryan to put together an amazing 3 point round to win 12-10.
It was at this point the Bryan turned it on. He beat our reigning champ Monica 11-0 in what he called “the best game of my life.” Then beat first place in the league Robb Jones 11-3, and last year’s league champion Phil Martino 11-4. You just don’t beat these people by scores like this (usually you don’t beat them at all), but then again you just don’t play as well as Bryan did. It just doesn’t happen.
The tournament had taken a crazy turn. Normally there can be only one undefeated player in the final of a double elimination tournament, but because of the forfeit we had two. Not only that, they happened to be partners in the league.
In events like this the cream rises to the top. On this day Los Moppines had all the cream, and they were shoving their cream in the face of the rest of our league.
It was a perfect 80 degree day with no clouds, the field was perfect for bocce success, we had tons of beer and tasty Paladino’s of Cicero Pizza, and two undefeated partners were set to face off for Turbo Bocce immortality. Hollywood time!
Bryan continued his dominating run against Greg, taking an 8-1 lead, and then managing to do what none of Turbo Bocce’s best players could do all day, beat Greg 11-6.
Here is how he won.
The undefeated champion of the winners bracket had lost, the champion of the losers bracket had lost without ever being defeated, and now we had one game left to settle the tournament once and for all.
Bryan again came out strong, taking a 4-0 lead. He looked simply unstoppable, but in my opinion one shot changed everything. Greg was down three, and Bryan had his ball in for a point with the pallino about forty feet away. Greg had one more shot. He used the shot to bomb out Bryan’s ball through the air, knocking it far enough away to give himself three points and tie the game. Knocking another ball away through the air is not uncommon from twenty feet. Its usual from thirty feet. Its unheard of from forty feet. This was a huge shot that tied the game, and really changed the momentum.
From that point on Greg was in control. He only surrendered one more point on route to an 11-7 win.
Here is how he won.
Greg Griffo is officially the Best Bocce Player In Syracuse!
The glory is his as is our first place prize . . . a year’s worth of the yogurt that Jamie Lee Curtis uses to poop. Just kidding, he got cash, and I doubt much of that cash will be spent on yogurt, but you never know.
Bryan Mullane finished second, but turned a lot of heads with his amazing run from the losers bracket, and was really the story of the day. He won a gift certificate to Sharkey’s Sports Bar, and a free pizza from Paladino’s Cicero.
Phil Martino came in third, and won a free pizza from Paladino’s Cicero.
Back to Greg Griffo. He has now joined an elite group of people who can say they are without question the best in the city at what they do. The eyes of the world are upon him. How will he leverage his success? In true movie star fashion his next stop will be Hollywood . . . Florida to borrow a car from his mom. Then its on to California . . . Pizza Kitchen, to grab some lunch. Then, at last, he’s going to Tinseltown . . . because Christmas decorations are really cheap this time of year.
Congratulations Griffo. Enjoy it.