In anticipation of the tournament we have coming up Saturday October 17th, at the site of Turbo Bocce’s first ever championship, I want to chronicle the early days of Turbo Bocce, and the people who invented it.
To start, I’ll tell you a little bit about the people who invented Turbo Bocce and what we did before we had bocce to occupy us. I’m going to title it:
Follow your Heart
What attitudes do you associate with playing Turbo Bocce? A competitive spirit, certainly. Passion – probably too much passion (even for something as stupid as a bocce league). A willingness to embrace new experiences and new ideas. A general sense of giddiness and excitement. Can we forget the drinking? Lets face it, we can’t.
I think you’ll find that the attitudes you’ve come to associate with Turbo Bocce have always been a part of those of us who built the league. Before we had Turbo Bocce we lacked a proper outlet for our exuberancy, and being younger, we were more directionless in general and often drunker than we are now. I will always associate the creation of Turbo Bocce with my law school graduation, so I suppose the best time to pick up the story of Turbo Bocce’s creation is my first year of law school.
Here are the major characters:
George Christou: George was always dating some ridiculously good looking girl, so when he came to visit me, he never wasted time picking up girls. He just wanted to go out, party, be the friendly guy he always is. He inevitably become the center of attention at every bar, and no matter what city (or what dive) we happened to be in, George always seemed to know a few people.
Phil Martino: Drinking with Phil is a wonderful experience. If you’ve never tried, know that I highly recommend it. When you drink with Phil anything can happen. You might end up inventing a new drink (sometimes terrible tasting, sometimes amazing tasting, either way memorable). You may end up in a different city. You may end up going out with Bosnian super models (a whole other story I won’t get into here).
Jim Whipple: At this time Jim was young and inexperienced. He was friends with George, and didn’t know Phil or I well. He was continually worried that we would kill ourselves with alcohol or some other stupid shenanigan.
Paul Colabufo: Back then my thing was drinking the most and getting the best grades. That was my immature school version of having it all.
In my first year at Buffalo, I lived in housing built by the school especially for law students. It was a relatively small community of people who would go to school together, study together, come home to live together, and then go out on weekends and socialize together. As you can imagine with a bunch of law students, it got a little stuffy.
Our law school community was turned on its head the first time Phil and George came to visit. Rumors immediately started about my friends being criminals and drug dealers. For the first and last time in my life I was seen as a “bad boy.” The funny thing is, we didn’t actually do anything crazy. We hit the Chippewa St. bars (Buffalo’s version of Armory Square) and then came home and played an entire season of Tecmo Bowl in one night . . . drug free! It was our attitude that caught people’s attention more than our actions. That stuffy law school community had not experienced passion and excitement like we had.
They saw the glee we had playing soccer in the hallway or kicking field goals on the football field, and legitimately didn’t understand it, so they assumed something more was going on. It wasn’t. That’s just how we are.
When March rolled around we started our infamous 9am – 4am St. Patrick’s Day drinking marathon (which traditionally started at a local lesbian, Lebanese diner, that I think was called Amy’s). This is when Whipple first came into the equation – lured by George to Buffalo with the promise of a good time. He was worried about drinking all day, and kept mentioning that we had to “pace ourselves.” So we dutifully confiscated a necklace with a shot glass on it and forced Whipple to wear it and do a shot every time he said the word “pace” which happened more frequently (seemingly involuntarily) the more he drank. Whipple cautiously preached safe drinking himself into about seven thousand shots that day, and took them all like a champ, proving that at that time his body knew how to handle liquor better than his mind did.
The three biggest highlights of the day (that I can remember) are:
1) Meeting a kid around noon who was walking to class. We found out it was his birthday, and in a half hour got him so drunk that he puked, sobered him up (kind of), and got him to his next class on time. He got an entire St. Patrick’s Day and a Birthday in fast forward without missing a class! All with total strangers.
2) Phil meeting a girl who spent her entire life savings (I’m probably exaggerating here, but only slightly) to throw us a killer party, complete with a beer pong table they bought the supplies for and hand made that day just for us. I remember it being decorated with a painting the quality of Van Gogh’s Starry Night, or Monet’s Water Lilles, but that’s probably just because I was young, drunk and stupid. I’m sure it was pretty great though for something thrown together at the last minute for Phil’s benefit.
3) Trying to convince my roommate at the end of the weekend that “No, of course nobody had sex in your bed, and I have no idea where that used condom came from.”
You’ve noticed, I’m sure, that nothing happened which specifically relates to the creation of Turbo Bocce, but this is the atmosphere in which Turbo Bocce was birthed, and these are the type of things we used to do before we had bocce. My hope is that relating these stories helps you feel more connected to the people who built the league and by association more connected to the league itself.
Stay tuned for part 2, coming shortly, about the day when everything started. I’m going to title it: Finding Lightning in a Bottle.