Top 10 Turbo Bocce Innovations

10_Year_Anniversary

Its time to brag a little. In our league’s ten years we have changed the game of bocce for the better. We’ve made bocce quicker, more exciting, and more fun. We’ve added more strategy and skill to the game of bocce, and we did it with creativity and innovation. To commemorate this, here are Turbo Bocce’s top ten innovations.

Number 10: B.E.E.R. Rating

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The Bocce Extreme Efficiency Rating, or BEER Rating (more acronyms!) is a statistical analysis of a bocce players overall dominance. It takes all sorts of statistics into account, including points, bocces (when the other team is in for a point and you knock them out), aces (when your ball is touching the target ball, or pallino), and even debocces (when you accidentally knock your own team out of a point) and formulates them into a simple number you can use to compare and contrast yourself against other bocce players.

It works kind of like QBR does for football quarterbacks, and much like QBR, the formula is too complicated for anybody to understand. Unlike the QBR in football, most people seem to be under the misunderstanding that your B.E.E.R. Rating has something to do with how much you dank (even though their number is usually a fraction that’s less than one).

Number 9: The George Christou Award

Turbo Bocce has given out the George Christou award after every day of bocce for the last two years. The premise is simple, buy your fellow bocce players a bunch of drinks and the league will buy you a drink.

After bocce, we always head to a bar who sponsors us with drink and food deals (this year that bar will be Sharkey’s), and inevitably some nice guy or gal ends up buying a round of drinks (or more) for a large group of people in our league.

Turbo Bocce wants to reward that nice guy or gal by making sure they get the free drink for once, and we leave the decision of who most deserves the award in the hands of an expert – aka the bartender.

After all, who better than the bartender to determine the person that most deserves a free drink? Once the winner is chosen they get this fancy medal, and a drink of their choice.

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Turbo Bocce loves to recognize the nice people who buy rounds and make our nights more fun, but last year the league voted to not spend league money on free drinks, so the payment for the free drink no longer comes from league coffers. The good news is, the award still exists and is still handed out every week, the free drink is now privately funded.

Number 8: Acronyms

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While Turbo Bocce did not (strictly speaking) invent acronyms, we did perfect them. Did you know that our league’s original name was not Turbo Bocce? In the beginning, we had a less descriptive, less appropriate, but much more inventive name -The Bocce Organization Of Beer Swillers.

Okay maybe it wasn’t any less descriptive, but it was the perfect acronym. BOOBS perfectly described how we acted, and Bocce Organization Of Beer Swillers described what we did. It worked on a lot of levels. For years I waited for the Nobel Prize in literature to come in the mail, but it never did, and eventually we outgrew the name. Still, we discovered that acronyms and bocce go well together, and that’s not likely to go away anytime soon.

Number 7: BCS

The BCS (or Bocce Championship Series) serves the same function for Turbo Bocce that the BCS used to serve for college football. Namely, its a way to qualify strength of schedule.

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Just like in college football, our league has become too big to play every team, and by luck of the draw some teams will play an easier schedule than others. The idea of the BCS is to give a little extra credit to the teams who happened to play more difficult schedules, thus evening the playing field.

Unlike the college football BCS, which people hated because it was too complicated, ours is simple. We take your winning percentage and add it to your opponents winning percentage. That number is your BCS number. When the playoffs come around, every team is seeded based on their BCS number, and there is no need for complex computer algorithms.

Number 6: Table Bocce

Phil Martino and I invented Table Bocce years ago, and I think its time the game made a comeback.

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Table Bocce is essentially bocce on a pool table. Its a lot of fun and this is how it works:

The cue ball serves as the pallino. One player takes the solids (except the 8 ball which is just an extra) and the other player takes the stripes, so each player has seven balls total. Just like with bocce the person throwing the pallino hits the cue ball down the table then follows up with one of his own balls trying to get it as close as possible to the pallino/cue. Just like with bocce, the team farthest from the pallino continues to shoot until they have inside position. Just like with bocce, each team gets four shots (the rest of your solids or stripes just hang out in the ball return to start).

Here is where things get different. In bocce you can try to get your ball in scoring position or you can try to knock out the other teams ball, but Table Bocce has a third option, you can try to knock one of your opponents balls into the pocket, thus causing them to lose that ball forever. Now each team has seven balls and only gets four shots, so causing your opponent to lose a ball will not hurt them immediately. But if you knock four or more of their balls into the pocket they will only have three (or fewer) balls left to shoot and score with, giving you the advantage.

The game ends not a 11 (or any other number) but when all of one players balls have be knocked into the pocket. The player who has lost all his balls has not necessarily lost the game, however, the winner is whoever has more points at the time one player has no more balls left, so there is a balancing act between needing to get your balls in scoring position, and wanting to knock your opponents balls into the pocket so that they eventually have fewer balls than you do and are at a disadvantage.

Next time you find yourself in a bar with a pool table give it a try. I think you will find its lots of fun.

Number 5: The Buzzsaw

One of Turbo Bocce’s coolest traditions stems from the historic Black Jesus vs. Beer United rivalry. When Phil Martino, Jim McCarthy and myself were forming the league, both Phil and Jim wanted to call their team Beer United. To settle the dispute they had a one on one bocce match with the winner gaining the Beer United name. Jim McCarthy won the game, and Phil Martino settled on calling his team Black Jesus.

Later that year, Beer United got Turbo Bocce’s first ever 11-0 shutout in the big Beer United vs. Black Jesus rivalry.

A year after that, Black Jesus got their revenge by shutting out Beer United 14-0. The special thing about a 14-0 score is, its the most you can possibly win by. Since we play to 11, the only way to reach 14 points is to be leading 10-0 and then getting a four point round. Phil coined the term Buzzsaw after the victory, and the name stuck.

In our league’s ten years there have only been six Buzzsaws. Ironically, Beer United has been involved in three of those six games, winning two and losing one.

Turbo Bocce tradition states that the team on the losing end of the Buzzsaw must buy the winners a drink. Here’s a pic of Jim McCarthy enjoying the shot and beer bought for him after Buzzsawing DaVinci last year, in Turbo Bocce’s most current Buzzsaw victory.

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Number 4: The Debocce

The Debocce is to bocce what the error is to baseball.

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You’re already in for a point, and when you shoot for a second point you accidentally knock the point you had out, giving your opponent a point. Every bocce player is familiar with this situation, we simply gave it a name and started keeping it as a statistic.

The funny thing is how naming something and recording it, adds awareness to it. Just putting a spotlight on the Debocce has made all of us better bocce players.

As someone who has made a Debocce to lose a championship I can tell you that they are not fun, but if you are aggressive you are probably going to get your fair share, and usually the season Debocce leader is a pretty good bocce player. This is good to know, and something we never would have known if we had not made the Debocce a statistic.

Plus it has a cool name, which is also appropriate because it is the opposite of a bocce – which is when your opponent is in for the point and you knock them out.

 

Number 3: The Bounty System

Free Money! How’s that for an innovation?

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Turbo Bocce was already giving money to the first, second, and third place finishers when we decided that the best bocce players should not be the only ones walking away with money in their pocket. We reasoned that everybody should have a chance at winning money, and in fact, you should have an opportunity to walk away with some cash every day you come play bocce.

That is the thinking that lead Phil Martino to invent the Bounty System. The idea is, one team is chosen at random before each week of bocce to be the Bounty Team (we do this by assigning each team a number, then having google’s random number generator pull up one of these number at random – whichever team’s number comes up becomes the Bounty Team).

The Bounty Team is kept secret from anybody until they begin to play. If you happen to be playing the Bounty Team you will get tapped on the shoulder and told that if you win your game you also win $20. If you lose to the Bounty Team that $20 goes back into the pot and next week whoever plays the Bounty Team has a chance to win $40.

Just for the record, the largest Bounty ever paid was $100.

Now that the league is bigger we have two bounty teams and pay two prizes each week instead of one so you have double the chance to walk away with some money every time you come play bocce.

 

Number 2: Turbo Round & Challenge System

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If you’ve played in a competitive bocce tournament (not run by Turbo Bocce) you know that more than half the tournament is spent standing around while the officials measure. Most bocce players have a hard time admitting when they miss, and ask for a measurement almost every time their shot falls short. Traditional bocce has no rule against this, even though it takes longer to measure than it does to throw, and you end up with a bocce game that is played at a slow pace with a lot of standing around.

Turbo Bocce went to great lengths to eliminate the slow pace of bocce ball, and, all the boring measuring. Our solution was the Turbo Round, which eventually gave our league its name.

The Turbo Round is a sudden death round played between any two players who happen to throw tied or disputed balls. Instead of breaking out a tape measure and meticulously determining how many millimeters separate two close bocce balls, we assume the balls are tied, then settle the tie with an intense one on one winner-takes-the-point throw-off.

The Turbo Round makes our games quicker and more exciting, but at this point you may be asking yourself “what if my ball really was a little bit closer? I don’t want to have to throw a sudden death round I might lose when the point rightfully should have been mine.” Don’t worry, we have that covered.

If you really think your ball is closer you have the right to challenge. When a player challenges we pull out the tape measure (just like in traditional bocce) and meticulously determine who is closer. If you challenge and you are right, you can challenge again at a later time, but if you are wrong you lose the ability to challenge for the rest of the match. This forces people to put their money where their mouth is and only challenge when they really think they their ball is in scoring position, as opposed to traditional bocce where people ask for a measurement every time just for the heck of it.

When you combine the Turbo Round with the Challenge System you get a game that is quicker and more exciting than traditional bocce, but also a game that is fair and rewards winning shots. A perfect solution to a difficult problem that has been plaguing traditional bocce ball for ages.

 

Number 1: The Starting Box

Before Turbo Bocce was created, bocce ball was a fun but flawed game that could be played two ways, on a traditional court or in somebody’s yard.

A traditional court looks like this:

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The problem with traditional courts is that when you play in a rectangle you end up shooting basically the same shot at basically the same distance over and over again, and that gets old. The sand and ground shell mixture commonly found in traditional bocce courts also gets you dirty and dusty, and the courts themselves need to be raked constantly. Bocce ball courts also happen to be few and far between, meaning there is usually a wait involved before its your turn to play.

Until 2005 (Turbo Bocce’s first year) people avoided these problems by simply playing bocce ball in their backyard.

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When you play in your backyard you can throw the pallino as short or as far as you like thus adding a new dimension to the game, but what you gain in freedom you lack in structure. We’ve all been there, you throw your ball and watch your opponent move five feet closer when he throws his, then the next guy moves ten feet to the side to get a better angle. Its unfair and unsportsmanlike.

Turbo Bocce managed to fix all the flaws that come with traditional bocce courts and backyard bocce by inventing the starting box.

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The starting box allows you to have the freedom of backyard bocce, but gives it the structure of a real sport. The rule is simple: everybody must have one foot on the starting box when they throw the pallino. Whichever team wins the point gets to choose where to place the starting box for the next round. You can throw as long as 50 feet or as short as 5 feet, depending on your preference. This adds a lot of strategy to the game. Some people are better at throwing it far, while others prefer to throw short. Blockers become an important part of the game. If you have a good shot you can throw a ball in front of it to defend. This strategy does not work with either the traditional bocce court or backyard because your opponent can simply step to the side and get an angle to hit it with anyway.

The starting box adds a whole new dimension to the game of bocce ball, it makes the world your court, while giving you the structure and fair play that comes from everybody throwing from the same spot. It adds all kinds of strategical nuances to the game of bocce, and is, in my opinion, Turbo Bocce’s greatest invention.