The Joy of Bocce Weekly
In This Issue: Vol. IV, Issue 36 - September 26, 2005 
•   Notes from the publisher
•   The Venue
•   2005 World Bocce Championships
•   The Results
•   The Format
•   Random Observations
Notes from the publisher
The weekly Ezine for bocce aficionados everywhere
Volume 4, Issue #36 - September 26, 2005
Publisher: Mario Pagnoni Copyright 2005
76 Emsley Terrace, Methuen, MA 01844
http://www.joyofbocce.com

Hello bocce lovers,

I just got back from my trip to the Palazzo di Bocce to see the finals of the 2005 World Bocce Championships. It was wonderful, but the airline lost my luggage on the return trip and it took about 6 hours to get it back.

This put me behind schedule for publishing this ezine (my camera was in the misplaced bag). But here is the ezine - just a tad late. I've worked so hard on it - sifting through hundreds of photos and selecting more than 20 - that I might leave them posted for an extra week. Enjoy!

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2005 World Bocce Championships
When I visited Louisville’s Gotcha Bocce recently, I also took in the Louisville Slugger Museum (http://www.sluggermuseum.org ). Besides viewing great baseball memorabilia there, we toured the bat factory where we watched big league bats being made. State-of-the-art lathes can crank out a bat in about 40 seconds.

When Ted Williams was there, he said “I was just like a young kid in a toy factory. I thought, boy this is the greatest place I have ever been.” After visiting the Palazzo di Bocce I know precisely how the Splendid Splinter felt. Photos for this world-class, Orion Township (Michigan) facility don’t begin to do it justice.

I had a fabulous experience soaking in the ambiance of Tony Battaglia’s bocce venue. I got to view the play of top tier athletes and dine on delicious delicacies of the Palazzo’s Trattoria di Bocce restaurant.

I had such a good time that I almost didn’t mind when the airline lost my luggage on my way home…well, almost didn’t mind.

The week-long bocce event was a smashing success, with seventeen countries descending on the Detroit area to compete for the World Bocce Singles Championships. In attendance were:

Austria
Brazil
Canada
Czech Republic
France
Germany
Hungary
Italy
Paraguay
Peru
Russia
San Marino
Slovakia
Switzerland
Turkey
United States
Uruguay

Rabid Detroit area sports fans must be hyperventilating, because they also hosted baseball’s Major League All-Star game, golf’s Ryder Cup, and football’s Super Bowl XL is next on tap.

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The Format
The 2005 World Bocce Championship was a singles event utilizing a two-out-of-three format. Players get their room and board covered by the host (Palazzo & sponsors) and no one brings their own bocce balls. These are supplied by the event organizers (107 mm used for international play).

The championships follow a four-year cycle.

2005 = Singles

2006 = Club play – if interested in representing the USA, your club must be a USBF member for two years (if you register before the end of 2005 I think you can qualify – http://www.bocce.com )

2007 = Team play - men (singles, doubles, and triples)

2008 = Team play - women (singles, doubles, triples)

Next year’s championships will be in Brazil. The world’s bocce athletes love to come to the USA to compete, and now Palazzo di Bocce offers a world-class venue to host such events. I asked bocce tournament director and international bocce guru Frederico Cristant of Toronto, Canada how the Palazzo stacked up against the boccedromes of Europe and the rest of the world. “Palazzo di Bocce is without equal” he offered without hesitation. “It is the best bocce facility in the world.”

The singles championship featured three divisions – Under 21, Women, and Men. There were no time limits on the length of games, so the tourney was long and arduous for the participants. There were elimination rounds, then quarterfinals, semifinals and finals. You had to beat your opponent to 15 points twice to earn a victory.

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The Venue
If the pictures can’t do it justice, I don’t know how I can with the written word. The place is fabulous – wicked awesome…way cool… as the kids say.

When you enter the Palazzo the restaurant/bar area greets you with a circular sign that reads “Long Live Bocce And Those Who Love To Play” (two circular signs – one in English, the other in Italian).

The courts are about 87’ by 12’. There are three to the left of the restaurant and three to the right and another four in a separate area suitable for renting out for parties and outings.

Banners from sponsors like Motor City Harley-Davidson (go figure) and Pepsi-Cola adorn the walls surrounding the 10 artisan-crafted courts. There’s even closed circuit TV so you can sit at the bar and watch a match in progress.

The Palazzo is spacious and the décor features warm earth tones and matching art work. Check out the virtual tour on the Palazzo web site http://www.yourtownhost.com/palazzodibocce/ .

The courts’ surface (a polymer which is poured like a liquid) was installed by Italian experts. Three different mixes, each with its own consistency and hardness are laid down 24 hours apart. The result is a true, fast rolling surface about ¼ inch thick. Sprinkled over the surface is a ground rubber mixture that feels like sand. This adds a little friction to the surface and extends the life of the court (should last 20 years or more).

The Results
It is important to note that the USA has traditionally not done well in international competitions because we don’t yet have a large enough pool of athletes playing the international style game. Still, we are making strides every year.

Thirteen-year-old Josh Wenson (West Bloomfield, MI) won the U21 national competition and finished 14th here.

Teresa Passaglia (Homer Glen, IL) was the top female player in the USA and came in 8th in the World Championship.

Mike Lapcevich of Pennsylvania finished first in the USA and 6th in this competition.

Georgio Moreno finished 2nd in the nationals and 4th in the world…not too shabby a showing for these four athletes and good old USA!

Final Results

U21

1st = Italy (Michele Agostini)
2nd = Switzerland (Thierry Roldan)
3rd = Brazil (Bruno Balbueno Da Cunha)

Women

1st = Italy (Germana Cantarini)
2nd = Brazil (Noeli Dalla Corte)
3rd = Peru (Mariolina Saletti Cordano)

Men

1st = Switzerland (Davide Bianchi)
2nd = Italy (Gianluca Formicone)
3rd = San Marino (Giuseppe Frisoni)

The Italians have long had a stranglehold on the world singles championships and this year was supposed to be no different. Since 1988 an Italian was the winner in every category with players like Dante D’Alessando and Emiliano Benedetti showing up in the winner’s circle repeatedly.

In this year’s men’s division everyone was convinced that the Italian, Gianluca Formicone, would win handily. In the semi-finals he was flawless, hitting every raffa and volo, and pointing with uncanny accuracy. The closest thing he came to a “miss” was a raffa that grazed its target, sending it far to the left rather than driving it to the back wall.

But in the finals, the Swiss player, Davide Bianchi, gave him all he could handle. The first game went to Formicone by a score of 15-14. Bianchi evened the match by winning the second game, and completed the stunning upset when Formicone, with the title on the line, missed on two consecutive attempts to hit the pallino. Bianchi ran around the court in jubilation, pumping his fists in the air. Finally, overcome with emotion, he fell to his knees covering his eyes with his hands. There was a new #1 player in the world. He wasn’t Italian and his name was Davide Bianchi. It was history in the making.

Random Observations
Some isolated points, random observations, and bocce strategies to note…

All balls are supposed to be in the rack, but the referees weren’t enforcing the regulation. When I inquired about this they said “As long as they are out where they can be seen, this is not a problem.”

Players must ask the referee’s permission to walk down court to view the positions of balls. If you cross the D line without permission, the referee “burns” one ball. With permission you may walk right up to the pallino and all around the played balls to gather data on how to proceed with your next roll. This is a far cry from the outdated International Bocce Association rules (some in the East still use these antique regulations) that only permit players to come to half court. I think they are afraid that, if you view things up close, you might actually know what shot you should attempt.

Any ball that hits the side board is dead (rule of advantage) and the opponent can “burn” the ball or leave everything as is. A player rolling the pallino and hitting the side board results in the opponent rolling the pallino. But the original player still plays the first ball.

There were a few misses here and there – not many, though. It was good for all to see (and reassuring) that even top players misfire occasionally.

A common scenario: Player A rolled pallino and then made a close point. Player B hit the point ball and both balls ended up at the back wall. The referees then needed a long tape measure to see which ball was in. The raffa and volo shooting was outstanding.

The Italian, Gianluca Formicone, was an uncanny pointer. In one game his opponent had one point about 9 inches from pallino. Formicone had the last three balls. I thought he would hit the opponent’s point away with the first ball and then come in for two points. Instead he lagged all three balls closer than 9 inches to score three points. Formicone was no “flash in the pan.” He displayed this kind of skillful accuracy repeatedly throughout the week.

These players play “gimmees.” The Brazilian had one close point with his other three balls near the back wall. The Swiss player hit the close point and the pallino bounced off a ball and rolled toward the shooter. Now Switzerland had two points and all Brazil’s balls were at the back wall. At this level of play the last two Swiss balls became “gimmees.” No need to roll the last two points because the opponent concedes that you will easily outlag the closest of his points.

In the U21 division the Brazilian had one point but his opponent had three balls in front blocking. Brazil had the last two balls but decided to “take the one and run” as some say. My bocce partner Pete Picarillo describes rolling for point in this situation as “fraught with danger.”

But an interesting thing occurred. Instead of carrying the balls to the other end, the Brazilian took the opportunity to roll them for a little extra “practice.” He moved over to the right of the court (away from where the pallino, his point ball, and the opponent’s three blocking balls were resting). Then he rolled the two balls down the court, sighting on a spot and reading their glide path as they moved down court.

Yet another interesting play…

This frame involved a lot of balls hit to the back wall. Player A had 3 balls at the back. Player B had three points, the closest still about 6 feet away and past the pallino. Each had one ball left. Player A knew that if he pointed close to pallino, Player B would knock it to the back wall and score three points. So instead, he pointed past the pallino about 5 feet making it a harder target to hit (farther away). Now the opponent had to decide if he should hit and try for three points, or point and take the easy one. He opted for the sure one point.

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