Thursday, August 26, 2010


After poking fun at myself in the previous "Squash Shots", I figure I may as well poke fun at the club too. So, here is a simple quiz to test your knowledge of basic… facts. There are really no correct answers, so you positively cannot fail.

1. If you poked a hole in a squash ball, what would you find?
a) That you have ruined a perfectly good squash ball
b) You can now play the best drop-shots ever
c) One of Mark Hayduk’s missing socks.
d) Air
e) Not even Joe Bobzin can warm it up

2. Who is the best squash player in the DAC, bar none?
a) Rob Barr
b) Roseanne Barr
c) The Tap Bar
d) Tom the Barber
e) George Haggarty
f) Kirk Haggarty
g) Peter Logan

I’ll let you all chew over that one...

3. Blerta Jakupi is...
a) The new soup on the Grill Room menu
b) An Athletic Department Manager
c) An Albanian swear word
d) The medical term for the Swine Flu
e) A Russian car manufacturer (“I drive a ’Jakupi’!”)
f) A made-up word

4. Racquetball is to Squash, as…
a) Checkers is to Chess
b) The Detroit Lions are to winning
c) Tiger Woods is to fidelity
d) The Detroit Tigers are to second half success
e) Shaquille O’Neal is to free-throws
f) LeBron James is to humility
g) Mick Joint is to playing good golf
h) All of the above

5. How can we win next the Cross Border Challenge?
a) Cheat
b) Tell Windsor the wrong date, then claim a forfeit
c) Start our players on a doping program
d) Don’t be ridiculous, it’s an impossible task.
e) Play better squash (How novel…)
f) Ha! Haha! Ha! Hahaha!

6. What does “DAC” really stand for?
a) Denim And Caps
b) Does Athletics Count?
c) Don’t Answer Cellphone
d) Dining And Catering
e) Don’ts And Cant’s
f) Detroit Athletic Club
g) International Airport Code for Dhaka, Bangladesh
h) Deutsche Automobil-Construktionsgesellschaf… errr, what?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


With a glint of a tear in my eye, I am proud to announce that it is our turn to defend the Cross Border Challenge Trophy for the first time since its inception way back in 2005. After that monumentally historic victory, we stumbled, bumbled and tumbled our way through 7 consecutive failures, which included us snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, laying down and receiving a good ‘ol spanking, and just standing on the sidelines watching year after year, as the squash Gods punished us unmercifully into submission. However, earlier this year in April 2010, it all changed around when we deservedly (if not uncharacteristically) regained the long lost treasure. Now all we have to do is keep it…

Saturday, September 18 is the date of the 10th show-down. The matches will be played in Windsor starting at 2pm. WE NEED YOU! We need singles players of all playing levels. We need doubles players at the A, B and C level. We need you to play well. We need you to drink and socialize! A keg will be available for the duration of the event and from personal experience, I can tell you the Windsor crowd are a tremendous group of people and I guarantee you will have a blast! The club is a 5 minute drive after you exit the tunnel – very easy to get to, very casual atmosphere. Do yourself a favor and get yourself out there for the perfect combination of squash and entertainment, you will not be disappointed. [Photo: Having a drink at the Windsor squash club]

Registrations close on Monday, September 13. We will do our utmost to match you up against a member from Windsor with the same playing level as your own. (Unfortunately, no guarantees!) Once the matches have been completed (and we have successfully defended our honor!) it is customary to hit the bars for a celebratory drink! Cheers!

Monday, August 16, 2010


Incredibly, it’s getting close to that time of year. Close to the time where the Detroit Lions start thinking about rebuilding for the 2011-2012 season, close to the time when you start counting down the golf days left on one hand, close to the time when your significant other starts nagging you about all the summer house projects that you didn’t get done, and close to the time when you start signing up for all the squash events with the fervent attitude that this is your year!

Kicking off the season is the Doubles Select Tournament. This is the easiest doubles tournament to enter because you are not required to search for a partner – I do that for you. Once all the sign-ups are in, I rank everybody from strongest downwards. Teams are then put together by matching the top ranked player with the lowest, the 2nd top ranked player with the 2nd lowest, and so forth. Theoretically, all teams should come out fairly even. Over the 5 years we have been running this event, players from A to D level have won this tournament- so everybody has a decent chance!

The tournament will begin on Tuesday, September 7. All rounds of the knock-out draw will have deadlines that will be your responsibility to stick to – or suffer the wrath of default!!! There is a prize for the winning team, so you do need to be a Blackballer in order to participate. There is no limit on the amount of entries; however I do need to have an even amount of players. It might be a little difficult for the one player left over to play all by themselves! Registration deadline is Friday, September 3.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Helpful Hints for ‘Game Time’

Like any change, the on-line court reservation system that was installed at the DAC just over 2 years ago (Game Time) was welcomed and embraced by many, and met with some frowns and skepticism from others. As all new systems, we had some initial teething problems but I now cannot recall the last time a member complained about it. While most of you are already well versed in booking your own court, it appears that a couple of the features offered are not being utilized which could help you find that extra competitive squash match you may be seeking.

On the front page of the squash reservation spreadsheet, you will find a tab titled ‘Game Seeker’. Game Seeker is a notice board that allows you to post a message advertising that you are looking for a game. You can list the day and time you would like to play, and the level of player you would like to play against. (If you are not sure what level you are, please come and ask me! Beginners generally start with a 2.0 rating, the top club level players are rated 5.5.) Next to the ‘Game Seeker’ tab is a number in parentheses. This indicates how many Game Seeker requests have been posted. To accept a request, simply click on the member’s name and a box will pop up with their contact information allowing you to send them an e-mail. The court must be booked separately.

Another way to announce that you are looking for a partner is to book a court at the time you wish to play, and in place of adding on a second player, click the option to ‘Request Extra Players For’. You will need to click the ‘Singles’ box to activate the request. You can also click the ‘Friends Only’ box, which means only members on your ‘friends list’ can accept the request. (You can make up your ‘friends list’ in your own personal profile under the ‘My Friends’ heading.) The court booking will appear on the spreadsheet in orange. If you did not click the ‘Friends Only’ box, any member can add themselves to the booking. This also works for the Doubles Squash. Please make sure that if you choose to seek a partner this way, that you cancel the court if you do not find a game!

Last but not least, do not forget about the ranking! Under the ‘Game Seeker’ tab, you will find the ‘Ladders’ link. This is actually the club ranking. All of your league, box ladder and Club Championship matches have been entered into the ladder since June 2008. The ranking works very simply—if you beat someone higher than yourself, you take their position and everybody in-between shuffles down one spot. Click on your name—you will see every match listed that you have played. You can also challenge players above you! Is your buddy ranked too high?

The system is programmed to follow the rules: You cannot reserve a court during peak time if you are playing guest and it will not allow you to reserve two time slots during any promise time period. It is extremely important that you reserve a court every single time you play – even if the all the courts are open. We follow court usage very closely and it only helps the squash program to grow. Additionally, it is also essential that you cancel your court if you do not wish to use it. The courts are becoming busier every season and everybody needs to respect their fellow members. Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to reserve a court because they are booked up but then finding them open when you then walk through the club.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Doubling Up in London

Every now and then, a weekend comes along that you end up talking and reminiscing about for a long time. For those of you that remember this year’s DAC Classic Tournament and the large contingent that ventured down from London, Ontario, you’ll recall that they, a) really love their squash, b) really love their socializing and c) are pretty handy at both. Since the summer is slow, it makes it the perfect time to visit our friends for a casual game of doubles and a couple of casual drinks… or two… or three… or four…
… hic!

London’s annual event – the Nash Cup – only runs singles categories. (It is on the first week of October this year. I will definitely be notifying you when registrations open.) So I suggested to a couple of our doubles players that we should get together and head to London for a relaxed day of doubles against their members. The London Squash Racquets Club is a key club, and just has squash. Four international singles, one hardball singles, and one doubles court. It’s small, but it has an atmosphere of alluring friendliness. It’s almost as if a magical power overcomes you when you enter the building that entrances you to sit and drink. John Dunwoody, Chris Terry and Stu Boynton jumped at the idea. We invited our good comrade Mike Counsman to join us who many of you know and is as loveable as Fozzie Bear but nowhere near as cute.

The Friday night was spent at Stu Boynton’s house in Bayfield – about an hour away from London. A beautiful cottage close to the lake surrounded by nature, it was large enough to accommodate all of us marvelously comfortably. Spoiled beyond what we were worth, we ate his food and drank his liquor until somebody had a momentary lapse of clear thinking and suggested we better get some shut-eye for our big squash challenge the next day. It was already the next day.
---------Stu Boynton (second from the right)

The morning drive to London swept through picturesque landscape, and included a tour through the “Town of the White Squirrel”. Stu explained to us that the squirrels are in fact as white as snow. We kept a keen eye out for this legendary (folkloric?) extraordinary creature, but alas they stayed hidden. I then wondered how much Stu really drank the night before…

---------Me, on the far left. I played with Andrew Mount (far right). We played against their club champions and lost.

Overall, doubles squash in London is of a very high standard. Considering it is stronger than even Windsor, it leaves us for dead. During the day John, Chris, Stu and Mike mixed it up with their members and they all received exactly what they were after: tough, competitive matches. The informal set-up of the squash was also appreciating. No set matches, no set teams, no set times. Play as much or as little as you like, and there was always someone at hand to jump on court and make a foursome. Kudos to their pro – Andrew Mount – who invited the ideal standard of player for us, all of whom had the personality to match. It was a brilliant day that left everybody satisfied. Not that we were keeping score, but at the end of the squash, Stu managed to point out that he was the only DAC member that won a match. Again, I wondered how much he really drank the night before…

---------John Dunwoody (second from the right)

What made the day special was how their members looked after us. Our glasses were bottomless and our stomachs were also taken care of. We capped the day off at the pub 100 yards away with burgers and beer before making our way back to Stu’s cottage.

London is a two hour drive from Detroit. This adventure will be repeated next summer.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Interfering with the Interference Rule

I recently posted an article discussing the etiquette required for players to help deal with the ‘let’ rule whilst playing
(See: Just imagine the carnage if the following rule was implemented at the DAC…

…Most of you are aware that squash has been desperately trying to get included into the Olympic Games. Whether or not it should be is a discussion for another day, but many believe that one of the reasons it did not get accepted on the 2016 schedule was (amongst other things) because of the ‘confusing’ issue of having to understand different scoring systems. Some tournaments used the hand-in-hand-out scoring to 9; some used the point-a-rally (PAR) to 15; some used the point-a-rally to 11. In order to keep it uniform, most national bodies adopted the point-a-rally to 11 as the sanctioned scoring hoping it would satisfy the Olympic committee. It did not. (All international men’s and women’s squash events now use PAR to 11.) Another issue blamed for the rejection was the ‘let’ - or interference – rule.

Criticism has been leveled towards players for excessive amounts of blocking, arguing, and interrupting the flow of the game with constant appeals for ‘lets’. These regular disruptions subtract from the enjoyment of the sport for the casual spectator – or so some of the experts say. The first question that springs to my mind is: Squash has a casual spectator? It’s not like baseball, or football, or even tennis. I have never heard anyone walking down the street or in a bar say, “Hey, I think I’ll pop down to the courts to catch that squash match” or “what channel is the Ashour / Matthew match on?” or “how much is that scalper asking for those Palmer – El Hindi tickets?” People who watch squash matches and actually go to pro events are generally squash players themselves and can appreciate the game for what it is. The casual spectator is normally that guy who has been sent from his company because they are sponsoring the event and someone needs to show their face and he wouldn’t be able to tell a great squash match from a bad one if it kicked him in the backside.

When you have two players covering the same area of floor, chasing a ball, constantly changing direction with racquets swinging, guess what? Interference is inevitable. At the pro level, players are fitter, faster, more skillful, and hit the ball harder than ever before. Rule changes have already been implemented over the past number of years to make the game more exciting including lowering the tin from 19 inches to 17, and changing the scoring system. I think both of those changes have worked wonders for the sport. It is more athletic, dynamic, and a lot more exciting to watch than what it used to be. But apparently, this isn’t enough.

Now, the ‘let’ rule itself is in the firing line. Trials have already taken place in exhibition events in the US that limited the amount of ‘let’ calls a player could make during a match. They got five. That’s it – five. The idea was to force the players to a) clear the ball better for their opponents to get to it, and b) play through minimal interference instead of stopping and asking for a ‘let’. In theory, a terrific idea. The changes gave each player 5 ‘lets’ per match. If a player requested a ‘let’ and received one, they then had 4 left. If they received a ‘stroke’ or a ‘no let’, they still had their 5 ‘lets’ to use. Once they used up their 5 ‘lets’, the only decision the referee could make if they asked for a future ‘let’ was either a ‘stroke’ or ‘no let’.

The 5-let rule received top grades from the exhibition tournaments – although I don’t know who graded it. The organizer? The players? The spectators? So successful was it that next season they will be experimenting with a no ‘let’ rule. That means all ‘let’ calls will be decided with either ‘stroke’ or ‘no let’! Replaying the rally will not be an option at all. The brains behind this radical idea suggests that the American spectator does not want ‘do-overs’ in sports. They want a point awarded to somebody after every rally. Really? Let’s agree that is true, but has squash become so riddled with ‘lets’ that the spectators are crying for change and eliminating them altogether will improve the quality of the spectacle? He goes on to compare squash to the NBA, NFL, and MLB that are constantly changing the rules to further enrich the audience’s experience. Comparing squash to these sports is like comparing apples to a bowl of cold soup. They could not be more different: team sports of such monumental following that do not comprise of individual rallies. (By the way, the MLB is littered with ‘do-overs’. How many 2-strike foul balls require the pitcher to re-pitch?)

Here are some issues I have with the no ‘let’ rule:

1. Aren’t there situations in squash where both players are equally to blame for the interference? Now the referee will have to penalize a player anyway.
2. It will encourage more arguments. A player will protest more vehemently for ‘strokes’ or ‘no lets’.
3. It will make the game rougher and more dangerous. If a player does not have a ‘lets’ to ask for, they are suddenly forced to push through ‘minimal’ interference that would normally be a ‘let’ situation in order to reach the ball. More pushing, more contact, more injuries.
4. This will not improve decision making. Referees still have to make a call. They will not suddenly become more ‘enlightened’ to the interpretation.
5. Referees will feel inclined to make ‘strong’ decisions for ordinary situations. ‘Lets’ will be turn into something else, the referee will be able to influence the outcome of matches more evidently. Referees should not be noticed during a match or determine outcomes.
6. There are already rules in place to deal with blocking, arguing, and all the issues this new rule wants to eliminate. It’s in the rule book.

So what is the answer? No matter what way you tinker with the rules, it still comes down to one common denominator: the referee. The problem, it seems, is just that. Referees have been too lenient on player dissent, too lenient on blocking, too lenient on minimal interference. If the referee did their job properly and consistently in the first place, they would minimize the disputes and keep the play flowing, and it wouldn’t even be a discussion. Squash bodies should get together to train better referees. Make them professional. Pay them. Maybe retired players would be willing to make it a career if the money is attractive enough. Plus, no one knows and can interpret the game better than the players themselves. But instead of addressing that problem – because that would cost money, time and effort – they are addressing the symptoms.

I have not seen the rule in action (or the original 5-let rule), so all of my concerns are based purely on speculation. Even though the rule changes were hailed as a screaming success, it’s coming off exhibition tournaments where nothing was really at stake. I’m not suggesting the players didn’t go flat out to win, but they would have played in flippers if paid to do so. I am unmistakably skeptical this would work at professional world ranking tournaments.

As a club player, I wouldn’t be worried. I doubt this will ever get past the experimental stage. Can you imagine the heated ‘disagreements’ on court if the no ‘let’ rule was in place here? We’d need a medic on constant stand-by. I am a little surprised that this is even a topic worthy of such drastic measures. Interference is part of the game and rules are in place to deal with them already. It’s a matter of enforcing those rules more effectively. In any case, I think spectators like controversy. Everyone loves to watch a car wreck during a race. Everyone loved to watch McEnroe blow a gasket. Jon Power was popular not just for his racquet skills, but for his quick mouth and wit as well. Spectators want characters on court; they need a hero to cheer for, and a villain to cheer against. Yes, the amount of blocking and arguing can get excessive during a match on the odd occasion, but isn’t that the same in all sports? And it isn’t as if it happens all the time, in fact I bet it’s a tiny minority of matches that are guilty of it. So improve the standard of referee, rather than change the rules to accommodate for the deficiency of it.

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