Syracuse Bocce Blast Recap

Saturday June 22nd was a hot and sunny day. The perfect day for a bocce ball tournament.

For those of you who could not make it and have never been to Pine Groves Country Club, some explanation of our venue is necessary. Pine Groves is a golf course/beach volley ball league/gym/ bar. They do a little bit of everything and to my delight they were very excited to add bocce to that list.

Pine Groves is located on a large and beautiful piece of land in Camillus, and they gave us free reign over it, which is wonderful because it allowed us to create a bocce tournament like none other.

As you can see in the pic above, we had a sand course to play on, flat grass land, large and small grassy hills, and even some water hazards. This made for a fun and unique bocce experience where controlling the pallino (and thus the mat) was vital because it allowed you to control what kind of surface you were playing on.

At 6pm (the start of the event) people came in droves, and it was a challenge to get all the teams signed up into a bracket. A team effort was needed and I want to recognize the team of Christi Smith from No Excuses who was taking tickets, our own Greg Griffo who was giving all the new teams a crash course on our style of bocce before sending them out into the field to compete, and myself who set up the tournament brackets, and called teams up to play.

Most of the down time happened early as teams waited for their chance to compete (and there were a LOT of teams waiting . . . more on that later) but there was a full bar and some great food options from Stir Mobil, Recess Coffee, and Groovy Granola to keep everyone busy. There was even a woman giving massages (who I felt bad for because of the excess amount of drunk sweaty people at this event).

At 7pm, the house music went off and the Pale Green Stars took the stage. It was my second time hearing them, and I have to say they rocked. A lot of funky stuff, and even some rap. Plus its always fun playing bocce while a band on a stage overhead plays music – I don’t even think its possible to have a bad time when that happens.

Sometime well after the band got rolling, the first round ended. Why did it take so long when the tournament consisted of only one game up to 11, single elimination? The reason is because we had 150 people participating which is obviously a really huge turnout for a bocce ball tournament. The number was so big, in fact, that it got me thinking . . . is this the biggest bocce ball tournament in Syracuse history?

Some of the biggest lovers of Syracuse and its history were there playing in our event; including Chris Fowler from Syracuse First, John Desantis from Believe In Syracuse, Michael John Heagerty of No Excuses, Mike Rotella the Syracuse Guru, representatives of Visit Syracuse, Rebel 105.9, Galaxy Communication, and more I am sure I am forgetting. Nobody does anything in Syracuse without one or more of these people having a hand it – so I did some polling. The consensus was there has never been a bocce tournament in Syracuse this big . . . at least in any of our lifetimes, and that is good enough for me. The Syracuse Bocce Blast is officially the biggest bocce tournament in Syracuse history! (or at the very least that is how ESPN radio 97.7 will be reporting it this Tuesday).

By the time we reached the elite eight of our tournament the sun had gone down and teams were playing under the lights. It was about this time that all the entrance fees had been counted and we realized, hey there are a LOT of people here and we have money to start buying them drinks!

My biggest regret is that a lot of people had left by this point without (at least from my perspective) getting everything they could have gotten out of the event, so that is something I am going to make sure we fix for next time. There was, as is always the case, a positive side to this mistake however. Everyone who stuck it out to the elite eight of our tournament (either to play or just to watch) got well taken care of. The shots and beers were absolutely flowing and sober people were hard to come by.

All the teams that finished in the elite eight or higher won a prize. Christi from No Excuses was there all night making sure those teams that did the best got what they deserve. Bar tabs at Al’s Wine and Whiskey, Blue Tusk, and Blarney Stone were given out. As well as gift certificates to Star Bucks, Liverpool Pool & Spa, the Turkish Cultural Center and LOFO. Several tee shirts were given away, and all the final four teams got a free tour from No Excuses.

This kind of tournament, with all its land variations, made for some really exciting games, and even some upsets, but in the end it came down to two Turbo Bocce teams. Are you surprised? Rob Mead of team Puzzles and Tim Maynard – team not yet named – combined to form the Swiss Pancakes, which was their Turbo Bocce team name a few years ago when they were partners. While Colin Donahoe and Mike Aylesworth of Droppin Balls combined to form a team of the same name in this tournament.

In the end, Tim and Rob were simply too hot. They won the championship after a long day simply destroying every team they came across, and I am not sure but I think they ended up taking bar tabs to Al’s and Blue Tusk home with them.

Those of you who are mathematically inclined may have figured out that 150 people do not make an even tournament that breaks down to a two team championship game, and some teams would need to get byes for everything to work out. I am happy to say that neither Swiss Pancakes or Droppin Balls received a bye. They went all the way through each round and beat all the teams they came across.

I’m not exactly sure what Tim and Rob’s strategy was, but I noticed that Rob showed up to the tournament absolutely hammered, and slowly sobered up as everyone else slowly descended into drunkenness. It may have been a brilliant tactical move, but I don’t plan on trying it anytime soon.

All I know is this, the Syracuse Bocce Blast allows us to have a legitimate Triple Crown this year, and Rob and Tim won the first leg. By winning the largest bocce tournament (probably) in Syracuse history, they have one title to their name. Only one of them can also win the Turbo Bocce playoffs, but if one of them does, that person will have the chance to win a staggeringly impressive bocce Triple Crown if they can also win the Syracuse Italian Festival which takes place just after our Turbo Bocce season ends. Personally, I am rooting for them. It would be one hell of a year.

So good luck to both Tim and Rob. If I know them, they are drooling at a chance to put their name on bocce Mount Rushmore by winning the biggest baddest triple crown Syracuse bocce has ever had to offer. Good luck guys, and thank you to everyone who made the first Syracuse Bocce Blast a huge success that will have huge long term positive impacts on our league.