The Joy of Bocce Weekly
In This Issue: Vol. V, Issue 1 - January 2, 2006 
•   Notes from the publisher
•   What’s in store for The Joy of Bocce and the Joy of Bocce Weekly?
•   Progress in 2005
•   What’s in store for our game in 2006?
•   Interesting 2005 events
•   Tournament update
Notes from the publisher
The weekly Ezine for bocce aficionados everywhere
Volume 5, Issue #1 - January 2, 2006
Publisher: Mario Pagnoni Copyright 2006
76 Emsley Terrace, Methuen, MA 01844
http://www.joyofbocce.com

The Year in Review – 2005

This issue begins The Joy of Bocce Weekly's 5th year of publication! A weekly ezine is an ambitious undertaking, but because so many loyal bocce friends from around the continent send questions, comments, and photos, I’ve been able to, with few exceptions, make those Sunday evening deadlines.

On those few weeks when we do go "dark" (no ezine for the week), I'm always interested to see whether or not we are missed by readers. I'm happy to say that we are. By Wednesday I usually have a flood of emails (well, at least a trickle) wanting to know what's up. Some even complain of needing their regular "bocce fix."

Let’s hope that reader contributions continue throughout 2006. This weekend I’ve reviewed the year’s back issues ( http://www.joyofbocce.com/backissues.ivnu ) preparing to sum up the bocce year in review. This always gives me mixed feelings as I enjoy reviewing the progress the game has made over the past 12 months, but get dismayed when I find all the typos I didn’t catch while scrambling to make deadline.

I started to list the contributors here, but the list got too unwieldy, and I was afraid I’d leave someone out and inadvertently offend a loyal supporter. Many thanks to all who contributed in 2005. Your continued input remains the lifeblood of the ezine

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Progress in 2005
{Publisher's comments in brackets...}

Everyone seems to agree that the game is growing leaps and bounds, yet we can’t seem to put our hands on empirical data that documents the game’s expansion. We need to know how many bocce balls are sold nationally compared to last year, five years ago, etc. How many people really are playing our game nationwide? These are the kinds of facts we need to arm ourselves with to “sell” sponsors, book publishers, TV programmers, etc.

Epco’s Bob Parella tells me “I’m selling a lot of bocce balls.” When pressed for hard data he offered “An increase of maybe 20 - 25% per year the last couple years.”

Michael Grasser tells me of a possible shake-out of Italian bocce ball manufacturers. The former American representative for CAST indicates that the company is now out of business, and Grasser believes other Italian manufacturers may soon follow. The Chinese are affecting the market by making an inexpensive recreation ball and marketing it widely including to the USA.

“Professional” bocce players are known to buy a new bocce set when they get a couple nicks on their high end bocce. But American families tend to buy one set of balls that lasts a lifetime (they do lose object balls with alarming frequency, and need to purchase replacements). The bocce ball market in America is clearly for family recreation sets, not the high end “professional” balls.

When I began dabbling in Internet bocce a decade ago, a search generally came up empty or nearly empty. Nowadays a Google search for “bocce” returns 2 ½ million results.

Google lists the following definition: an indication of how still relatively obscure our game is to the masses:

“boc·ce or boc·ci or boc·cie (bŏch'ç) n.
A game of Italian origin similar to lawn bowling that is played with wooden balls on a long narrow court covered with fine gravel.
[Italian bocce, pl. of boccia, ball.]”

The year 2005 saw a steady increase in newspaper, magazine and television pieces on our game. As always, writers and interviewers compare the game to shuffleboard or horseshoes. These comparisons are valid I guess, but bocce has a cerebral aspect that horseshoes does not and shuffleboard only approximates. Those other games are fine. I like them. But they can't hold a candle to our game.

Correspondent Joyce Pellino Crane interviewed me by phone and attended one of our bocce group's sessions. You can read her well crafted article at
http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2005/08/04/a_little_body_english_for_an_italian_sport/

An indication of the state of the game in the USA… My non-profit group (Ken Waldie Senior Sports Circuit, Inc.) had to cancel its 3-on-3 basketball tournament because of an insurance restriction on renting the high school's field house. Our group has been unable to get liability insurance since the carriers don’t list bocce as an approved sport. How dumb is that? They'll insure 50-, 60-, 70-year-olds playing basketball and softball, but not bocce!

Interesting 2005 events
For me (and I hope for the sport), the year’s most important bocce development was the release of the 2nd edition of my book.

Many in the bocce community stepped up to become resellers of the title (http://www.CampodiBocce.com - Ben Musolf, http://www.Buybocceballs.com - Simon Church, http://www.Boccemon.com - Tom McNutt, http://www.BocceBrew.com - David Brewer, and The Bargetto Winery - Jim Vaughan).

The illustrious Dr. Cordano (FL) was the first to give a testimonial for the new edition...

"Mario: You may notice that in the subject of this e-mail I wrote BOOK with capital letters, in recognition of the masterpiece on bocce that you have come up with!

Thanks in the name of the sport of bocce and congratulations for the grand slam titled: The Joy of Bocce 2nd Edition by Mario Pagnoni."

I received a review from an Italian bocce master, and got a translation from one of my bocce playing buddies whose wife is fluent in Italian...

"I received Pagnoni’s book. It is beautiful! I am so happy to see my work cited there and I thank you for your interest. My compliments to the author of the book. His book is one true mine of news and information. I think it will be a unique work all over the world – it is really great."

We got some good PR for our sport on the Style Network. We built and brought to Manhattan a portable bocce set-up (and bocce balls) that perfectly fit the set of the Issac Mizrahi Show. The fashion designer hosted Steve Schirripa of Sopranos fame and played a little bocce with his guest.

The Palazzo di Bocce opened (Lake Orion, MI) – America’s first bocce palace with 10 indoor courts and an Italian restaurant. Hosting the U.S. National Championships and the World’s Singles Championships as well as hundreds of corporate parties, the venue is a major bocce success story. http://www.palazzodibocce.com

Two individuals, Tom, (http://www/Boccemon.com) McNutt and Bryan (http://www.Ibocce.com) Mero independently spearheaded drives to send bocce balls and courts to American troops stationed in Iraq.

ESPN radio broadcaster Bob Valvano opened and invited me to visit his Gotcha Bocce facility in Lousiville, Kentucky (6 indoor courts and an Italian restaurant). I scheduled a visit, appearance on Bob V's local radio show, and book signing at the venue. Pictures are still posted at http://www.joyofbocce.com/gotchabocce.ivnu .

Valvano’s perceptive comments include:

"People say, 'Bocce? What is bocce?' Or, 'Oh, bocce! I love bocce!' I don't think I've ever heard anyone say, 'I hate bocce.' They either don't know it or they love it."

In years past I witnessed some pretty good bocce play by legally blind athletes. But this year marked the first time I've encountered such play from the sightless.

Janet Pecorari stole the show during my annual trip to the Natick Sons of Italy (Natick, Mass.). Losing her eyesight as an adult, she continues to play bocce...she not only plays, she plays WELL!

Husband Nick would carefully call out instructions, giving Janet the info needed to mentally visualize the shot she would attempt. Then he'd ring a bell continuously over the target until the ball left Janet's hand. The teamwork was very impressive (if you look up the word teamwork in the dictionary, the definition ought to include a picture of Janet and Nick playing bocce).

Peter Rabito launched the American Bocce Club http://www.americanbocceclub.com . Rabito got to appear in "Bocce Balls," an original Screenplay written by independent film and video award winner Barbara Ricci.

It's the story of Mama and Luigi Bocce's family and what goes on in The Bocce Bar & Grill. What goes on in Mama Bocce's house, stays in Mama Bocce's house. "It's a nobody's business". {Seinfeld's Jason Alexander played the lead}

Boccemon Tom McNutt developed a rain country blend top dressing and a method to ship it anywhere in the world. http://www.boccemon.com/bocce-court.shtml

My age 55+ softball team played in the Senior Olympics in Pittsburgh and hooked up with Guy DiCarlo’s bocce posse while we were there.

Our non-profit group (Ken Waldie Senior Sports Circuit, Inc. - http://www.kenwaldiessc.org ) which offers softball, basketball, and bocce to seniors began offering company parties/outings at our bocce venue in North Andover, MA.

What’s in store for The Joy of Bocce and the Joy of Bocce Weekly?
This year I’ll try to update the archives more frequently. As a matter of fact, I might try archiving each issue as I launch it. Then, anyone having trouble receiving the ezine can just read the archived issue. Because of spam filters, ezine “deliverability” is a major problem for the industry nowadays.

I’ll be tweaking the web site this year. Most people initially visit a site for information. Later, if they like what you have to offer and learn to trust you, they might purchase something. I want to make my site the most informative on the web. Most questions are on how to play, rules, building a court, and equipment. So, I’ll have navigation buttons for those topics and branch off from there.

I help run an annual youth bocce tournament each summer at our local library. We’ve grown from 20 participants to over 60. Sometimes I’ll run into one of the middle school kids in town and they’ll say something like “I know you – you’re the bocce guy.” There are a lot of guys called “Mr. Bocce” in different parts of the country. To me, the name includes the connotation of being a great player (which I am not), so I’d much rather go by the handle “The Bocce Guy.” I’m the one who knows the answers to your bocce questions – if I don’t know the answer, I can connect you with the one who does. Heck - I’m “the bocce guy”.

I’m learning about blogging and may launch a bocce blog. I’ve purchased the domain name bocceguy.com.

I've created a new web page titled Bocce Venues where I'll post one photo of a series of venues. Clicking on the photo will take you to a page of pictures and details on that venue. Please invite me to your bocce place so that I can take photos and add them to my Bocce Venues page. Check them out at http://www.joyofbocce.com/boccevenues.ivnu .

What’s in store for our game in 2006?
Following the success of the Palazzo di Bocce and Campo di Bocce, others around the USA are considering constructing similar facilities. Campo di Bocce is building a second California venue, expecting to mirror the success of the original.

Bocce charity fund-raisers I think will begin to rival and perhaps overtake golf tourney fund-raisers. Bocce events are simpler and less expensive to run, and anyone who can roll a ball can help the charity. We ran two successful charity events this year in Massachusetts and New Hampshire – I believe the first two in New England.

Doug Beaudoin (FXSports), a former NFL player who runs events for the NFL alumni will offer a huge celebrity bocce tournament (perhaps televised) at the Palazzo di Bocce during the Superbowl in Detroit.

I've said repeatedly that virtually everyone we introduce the game to likes it - we just need TV exposure. The game still suffers from an image problem - people think it's a boring game for boring old fogies. In Pittsburgh for the Senior Olympics last summer, I chatted with some softball players who were in the age 70+ division. When I asked if they played bocce, they snapped "When we're 90 we'll play that game." They just don't get it...and it's not their fault - they haven't experienced bocce. Our game is ailing in the public eye. If the Superbowl TV coverage captures the essence and excitement of bocce, it might be just what the doctor ordered.

Ashley Womble of This Old House Magazine will be doing a story and photo display of a backyard bocce court construction project. If you're building a court and would like to be the subject of this project, let me know ASAP.

My book hasn’t yet had the impact I had hoped. It still doesn’t have the mass market appeal that will help the game grow. Maybe this year I’ll land a bigger publisher (one that will invest in marketing). Maybe I’ll get some articles published in mainstream mass market periodicals. Who knows, maybe Oprah will call.

Bocce groups need to support each other’s programs. Pete Vescovo of the Memphis Bocce Club is right on with his lucid comments. “I would love to see more interaction between clubs around the country. We all have the same challenges such as recruitment of new members, making each club financially strong, and growth and recognition of the sport that it really deserves. We must work hard to ‘modernize’ the image of Bocce while not forgetting our rich heritage.”

The final word…

Over the years I’ve made a conscious effort not to align with any particular bocce group. It still appears to me that there is infighting and that each group is afraid that the other will gain a foothold. They don’t seem to want to cooperate for the good of the game.

The United States Bocce Federation is the outfit that qualifies players to compete internationally, and the only bocce group sanctioned by the AAU. So, it only makes sense that American players align themselves with the USBF, accepting them as the governing body of bocce in America.

But I think the USBF needs to put a lot more effort into promoting open rules play. The officers seem so concerned with competing internationally that they are missing the point about American families just having fun with this wonderful game.

I know that they want to beef up American play so we can compete on a more level playing field. I know that international rules minimize the luck factor. I understand that the international game vs. the open rules game is the difference between chess and checkers.

But, we have a lot of people in this country who want to play checkers. They like that luck is a factor in their game. They want to play carom shots off the side boards and they don’t want to mark the position of every ball on the court. I just can’t see the international rules game catching on with the masses in the near future.

Compare bocce to a sport like baseball. There are a zillion kids playing Little League Baseball in this country. They are at the base of a huge pyramid of ball players. As you go up the pyramid to say, Babe Ruth Baseball, then high school freshman, junior varsity, varsity, then on to college, the minor leagues… all the way to “The Show”, the number of players continues to shrink. Only something like 1 player in 10,000 makes it to the Major Leagues. But we need those zillions of Little Leaguers at the pyramid’s base to ensure that some do max out in the Big Leagues.

The same needs to happen in bocce. Let’s get vast numbers at the base of the pyramid playing open rules and having fun. Some of those will inevitably advance up the pyramid and gravitate toward the higher levels of play. Some will be eager to represent the USA in international competitions. And when you start with a huge base of players, the ones who make it to the top are going to be pretty good players indeed.

Maybe we need a nationwide symposium or conference on the state of the game and the steps we need to take to get where we want to go.

Tournament update
{chronological order}

Please - anyone running a tournament - do me a favor - put a notice near your tourney bracket board informing players that they can go to http://www.joyofbocce.com and "opt in" for my FREE Ezine on bocce. Click the logo to the right to opt in if you do not already receive this ezine every Monday.

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Please consider designating someone as "official event photographer" and directing that person to send snapshots for us to reproduce as photos of the week. Our readers love seeing bocce action from around the continent.

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January 1, 2006 (New Year's Eve & New Year's Day) - Iraq - Camp Habbaniyah Combat Bocce Club - 2-player teams - Iraq's only US Bocce Federation Sanctioned and Certified Bocce League. Sign up at ALOC or Commo Office.

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January 28, 2006 - Massachusetts - Lawrence - Sons of Italy, 155 Marston St. Four-player teams - $100 entry fee includes coffee and donut breakfast and sausage sandwich lunch. Registration cut-off = January 25, 2006. Contact Steve Zanni at 978-687-6853.

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February 11 & 12, 2006 - Michigan - Orion - Palazzo di Bocce - Mid-Winter Bocce Blast - Doubles (2-person teams), round-robin format, limited to 40 teams - $150 per team, paying top 10 places. 1st & 2nd places guaranteed $2,500 & $1,500 respectively. Registration deadline is Wednesday, February 8th. More info... Bryan Sanborn at 248-371-9987 x13 or email bsanborn@palazzodibocce.com.

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February 24 & 25 - Tennessee - Memphis. Memphis Italian-American Society/Memphis Bocce Club (4217 East Holmes Road). Four-player teams - double elimination - $200 entry fee. Prize money based on 20 teams - 1st - $2000, 2nd - $1000, 3rd - $500, 4th - $250. Contact Ralph Galtelli @ 901-272-2124.

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March 31 - April 1, 2006 - Arizona American Italian Club
$200 team entry / 4 person teams and $4000.00 first prize. Second place = $2,000, 3rd = $1,000, 4th = $500. Contact Pasquale D'Alisio @ 602-569-9149 or daliesio@aol.com.

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April 22, 2006 - California - South San Francisco - Orange Ave. Mem. Park - Triples (3-person teams) - Open rules - contact Alvaro Bettucchi @ 650-871-9278.

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April 29, 2006 - Washington - Bellingham Bay Bocce Tournament - 4th annual charity fundraiser ( this year for Hospice ). Four person teams $20/person, 32 teams. Details at http://www.boccemon.com or contact Tom at 360-224-2909.

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May 13, 2006 - California - Martinez - Debbie Gerow Memorial Bocce Tournament/The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation Fundraiser - Open – 4 person team. Contact Traci Malley @ 916-456-7169.

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May 20, 2006 - California - South San Francisco - Open -2 men/2 women - IACC - Orange Ave. Mem. Park. Contact Rudy Bertolozzi @ 650-583-9936.

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June 3, 2006 - California - Fairfield - Women’s Tournament - Open – 4 person teams - Fairfield Bocce Federation, 1200 Civic Center Dr. Contact Richard Meccette @ 707-434-0190.

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June 17, 2006 - Location & date not finalized - ABA Raffa Championships - 3-person teams - Crockett Bocce Federation. MUST HAVE ABA CARD - contact Dick Gomez @ 707-554-9916.

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