Guinness World Record: spending 30 hours trapped in a rectangle

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Breaking this particular world record was a logistical nightmare. There was a lot to plan – finding a hall we could use for thirty straight hours, finding a means of recording thirty straight hours of video, finding finding sixteen witnesses to view our record attempt at all hours of the day and night, finding people to volunteer to sell beer, perform video camera checks, and clean up. We even needed people to feed us since we couldn’t stop playing bocce for long enough to feed ourselves.

Every day leading up to the marathon required work. The day before the marathon, instead of getting some much needed rest, we built a bocce court, tested cameras and clocks, and ran hundreds of feet of extension cords. Even with all that done ahead of time, the morning of the marathon was far from restful. Cameras and clocks needed to be retested, kegs needed to be tapped, sponsors signs needed to be hung, food needed to be brought in, and between it all reporters needed their questions answered.

I actually felt a rather profound sense of relief when the record attempt started and by rule I had to give up everything except playing bocce. I had visions of a very laid back marathon. We set up a movie screen, rented a bunch of movies, and I pictured a day of halfheartedly throwing bocce balls. That never happened. Everyone was in it to win it, and after my team got its ass kicked the first game or two I realized I needed to put more effort into my bocce.

So there we were, trapped in a rectangle for thirty hours – we could have done something other than focus on bocce, but nobody wanted to. Everybody wanted to win.

The green team was made up of Kate Mead, Monica Angelosanto, Alison Bodine, and Mike Aylesworth. They were all good – very good really – and about ten hours into the marathon they had a pretty commanding 14 games to 7 games lead.

Our games took about a half hour each, on average, so when you get behind by seven games you start to think about it in terms of time “even if we win every game its going to take us three and a half hours to pull even” was mentioned more than once.

Time ticked by and the red team – Phil Martino, Jim Whipple, Greg Griffo, and myself – had to give our all to prevent a blow-out of epic proportions, so pretty much nothing existed for us but the bocce. That and a scare every four hours.

Four hours is the longest anybody can witness, by Guinness rule. Thus every four hours we had a change of shift, and while I tried to have back up witnesses on hand, it was hard enough to get two witnesses round the clock, much less three or four. If one witness didn’t show up or overslept, the record attempt would fail, so it was a big deal, and luckily for us our witnesses were phenomenal. Not one showed up late. Not one even showed up on time. They were all at least fifteen minutes early, and many of them came even earlier than that.

I’d like to thank our witnesses and people that were there to back them up by name, because they deserve it.

A very sincere thank you to:

Angelo Isgro

Nariman Jiries

Oscar Ocampo

Heather Cleveland

Rob Calvani

Maggie Golditch

Rick Sauter

Mike Mokrzycki

Patty Cerio

Sophie Kardaras

Meg Dyer

Jim Flynt

Nick Calaprico

Keely Lanthrop

Rick Heffernan

Mark Chambers

Tammy Harcum

Moe Mancuso

Hopefully all the witnesses had a good time.  They definitely saw some things.  One of the unavoidable consequences of being trapped in a rectangle for thirty hours is developing some weird obsessions.  The major obsession of the night was to get a Buzz Saw. For those that don’t know, a Buzz Saw is a 14-0 win. Since we play to 11, the only way to earn a Buzz Saw is to have exactly a 10-0 lead, and then to score a 4 point round. Its extremely hard to do. In 11 Turbo Bocce seasons it has only happened 7 times.

Early on there were a couple Buzz Saw opportunities for each side, but none of them ended up panning out. Probably the most notable game of the entire tournament came when my team had a 10-0 lead, and went all out to get the Buzz Saw, when we could have just won the game. We ended up failing to get the Buzz Saw, and actually lost the game 12-10. During this epic twelve point come back, a new term was coined – Reverse Buzz Saw. This occurs when you fall behind by 10 and then score 14 consecutive points to win. As far as I know its never been done.

Even though a Buzz Saw never actually happened, it was always on our minds, especially Whipple’s, who played the following Buzz Saw sound effect every time anybody took a 2 or 3 to nothing lead (pretty much constantly all day long).

Its funny how too much bocce and lack of sleep affect you. The green team seemed to play better when they had the most energy. During the first day and during the second day when we were on our second wind, they dominated. I seemed to play best in the middle of the night. For whatever reason my body seemed to know just how far to roll the ball, without my brain needed to kick in. For about seven or eight hours when I would usually be sleeping pretty much every shot I made was right on target. Later, when my body woke up I started rolling the ball a little too hard. Phil Martino seemed to be in the same groove. After a slow start, he went on to play, oh, maybe, 27 or so straight hours of brilliant bocce. It was during these late hours that our team took the lead, and built a lead of our own.

This was a marathon of streaks. Even though it can be frustrating to lose a large number of bocce games in a row, and both teams did that, spirits were high and everyone got along great. There were no arguments even though our bladders seldome agreed.

By Guinness rule you can only go to the bathroom on designated breaks, so all eight of us had to agree when to take the few bathroom breaks that we got. I’m sure everybody at some point felt the need to go, realized they’d have to wait, and then thought something like “I can’t even go to the bathroom when I need to, what the hell did I get myself into?”

For the most part we worked it out fine. I felt the worst for Phil who was the only smoker of the group which had to be psychologically difficult, but he managed to tough it out. The breaks were the stressful part for me, because they had to be strictly timed. I felt more rested when we were playing bocce and I could get into a grove of shooting and resting.

We never watched any of the movies we rented, and instead chose music. Mostly 80’s and 90’s stuff.

I suggested that this song be my team’s theme song at one sleep deprived point (I think we were winning).

I learned that Right Said Fred sounds a lot better after 24 hours of no sleep than they do on full rest.

I also learned that the groove really is in the heart.

If you’re anything like me then you tend to get songs stuck in your head when you are tired. The more tired I am the more random the song usually is, and stronger the song sticks. We never actually listened to this song, but it was going through my head all night.

Its funny how tied our bodies are to the environment. While there were a few rough patches during the night, as soon as the sun came up everything seemed easier. There was energy and an eagerness to break the record, which seemed to come relatively quickly. About 10pm we broke the old record, and splurged a little of or break time on a champagne celebration.

There are three people who helped us so much that they deserve as much recognition as the players.

Andy Thompson

Sophia Kardaras

Kate Colabufo

They were at the Ukrainian Home almost as long as we were, and they handled everything from serving beers, maintaining constant video surveillance, bringing us food, and organizing the witnesses. You went above and beyond and we absolutely could not have done it without you!

Breaking a world record is a funny thing. I don’t think there is anything inherently impressive about playing bocce for twenty-four and half hours, but there is something intellectually titillating about doing something that’s never been done before. Lets fact it, in 2016 there aren’t all that many things that haven’t been done. You can’t even walk on the moon and say you were the first to do it (suck it Buzz Aldrin), but we can say we were the first to play bocce for that long (suck it every other bocce league).

Plus there was the added bonus of being able to check one more item off my bucket list. Now all I have to do is found the world’s first all giraffe basketball team – the New York Necks – and I can die happy.

Breaking the record was cool, but we had a goal to go for thirty hours, and we were determined to do exactly that, even though it meant another six hours of playing bocce.

Twenty-four hours without sleep and a bottle of champagne per person is not the best combination. Things got a little ugly towards the end, but we did it. Unfortunately our timing was terrible. At about 29 hours and 30 minutes of playing we figured we had only one game left to play, since our games had been averaging about 30 minutes a piece. Unfortunately the next game was an 11-0 shutout that only took about 10 minutes to play.

The rules say that you have to finish the game you start for it to count, meaning we cant just give up in the middle of a game if we want credit for that time. So, we started a second game figuring we would go just a little over the 30 hour mark. Wrong again. That game was also unbelievably quick, and ended just a minute or two before the 30 hour mark. We could have quit there, but our goal was to go all 30 hours so we started a third game, which of course took the full half hour. Those last thirty minutes were by far the worst of the entire marathon, so we were all glad it was over.

We toasted the accomplishment of 30 straight hours of drinking with a Guinness (of course).

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The final tally was 30 hours and 33 minutes of consecutive bocce. 56 games played. 32 games won for the read team, and 24 games won for the green team.

Mission accomplished.

If you want to break a world record of your own this is my advice: work hard, never sleep, and shirk all other responsibilities in your life.

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I also don’t want to let the moment pass without acknowledging what this was all about. I happen to believe that gestures mean something, and if I’m right this fairly sizable gesture meant something more than just setting a goofy world record. Its a reason to remember good times, and a reason dedicate an accomplishment. And this marathon isn’t really complete until the dedication is complete . . . in loving memory of Rob Mead and Joe Mead.



Post Script: A pretty cool follow up story happened to me the Thursday following this event during Believe In Syracuse’s 3rd birthday party. Three Syracuse dignitaries were set to play a game of Syracuse Jeopardy, and when one of them backed out, I became the last minute replacement. As we were playing I was quite surprised to see that our world record attempt was one of the questions. So not only was I contestant, but I was (kind of) an answer. Oh by the way, I kicked ass and won the thing by about $8,000.

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