July 25, 2009 - Extreme Bocce
During our July visit to Orchard Park, NY, Bob Miller treated us to a special behind-the-scenes look at the Orchard Park trials of the United States National Bocce Federation. These tournaments are the first step on the road to the United States Olympic Bocce tryouts and a place on the US Olympic Bocce Team at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. They were held at the specially built playing fields of Green Lake Park not far from Rich Stadium in Orchard Park, New York.

You can see that all of these athletes are in top physical condition, training in preparation for the trials to come. Competition is ferocious for the few spots on the highly selective US Team. The faces of each of these olympic hopefuls is tensed with concentration as they repeatedly test the limits of physical endurance. Each has his or her special techniques, honed over years of brutal training under stern coaches and overlooked by unrelenting fans.

Officiating and Scorekeeping
Crowds
Groundskeeping
Special Priviledges
The Thrill of Victory
Team USA Olympic Bocce Hopefuls
As might be expected under these conditions of extreme pressure to perform at their best, tensions are high. Past trials have often witnessed violent confrontations among athletes, officials, and even spectators. Record crowds of spectators this year were unwittingly infiltrated by batallions of specially trained riot police, determined to maintain order at any cost during the event.
We were fortunate to have Bob's special passes, allowing us access to the athlete's entrance and separating us from the pressing throngs of fans. Without this advantage, our special adventure might have turned ugly. Bob doesn't seem to acknowledge the fact that there are a few National Bocce fans who are not rooting for his continued success.
Officials have been particularly sensitive to the heightened tension. The latest measurement technology has been employed to insure that the results of each effort can be measured to within "a gnat's butt". The introduction of this new equipment seems to have awed the crowd and soothed the former complaints of favoritism for the local competitors.

The installation of innovative digital scoreboards further deflected critisism of officials. Scoring is instantly updated and clearly displayed at the conclusion of each match, avoiding confusion and further dissipating contentions.

Facility maintenance has always been an important part of the Green Lake Park venue. The introduction of wider court sweeping mechanisms this year has reduced the time between matches. We were unofficially told that this is another attempt to maintain order. When the spectators concentrate on the sport, they apparently have less time to become unruly.
Due to Bob's Miller's status as one of the premier players in the league, Paul was allowed to toss a few balls on the official court. When additional officials noticed his presence on the court however, he was asked to leave.
Well there was no denying that our boy is one of the "best in the business" as his team rolled on to another victory. Despite his myriad wins, the jubilance of another victory is evident in every pore of his toned body. It's obvious that Bob is one of those athletes who just lives for his sport. That consuming thrill and competitive attitude have repeatedly won him the title of "Mr. Bocce"!
These fine athletes gather week after week, competing on a grueling schedule, facing enormous odds, all for the love and promotion of National Bocce. I've included copies of the trading cards for some of the top competitors below and a team photo in 8 x 10 format on the left.

There is no doubt that they deserve our undying support as the hope for the future of Bocce in our country!