Thursday, December 29, 2011

SQUASH SHOTS XII

The “Mickies” Awards for 2011

Keeping up with the season of giving, it is once again time to hand out the “Mickies”! Absurdly frivolous awards that really don’t do anything except take the ‘Mickey’ out of you. 2011 has been another magnificent year for the DAC Squash program. Court usage is up, we won the Cross Border Challenge against Windsor in September, the DAC Classic is bursting at the seams, and showing our unsurpassed generosity, we let the BAC borrow the Farris Cup. A special year deserves special awards, so here are this year’s winners…

The “I’m In The Wrong Age Category” award goes to… James Van Dyke!
An unsuspecting James played very well during the 2011 DAC Squash Classic in the 3.0 division. Meeting him in the final was none other than 13 year old Charlie Beauregard – a charming young ‘man’ from the BAC. Naturally, you would think a burly 32 year old would be able to swat away such a feeble bodied opponent but alas squash is a funny game. Not funny for James mind you – he lost the final in 5 games.

The “Beaten By A Sheila” award goes to… Sante Fratarcangeli and Jason Trombley!
Or, better put – Sheilas! Our two young studs decided to risk humiliation by electing to play doubles in the Cross Border Challenge against Windsor. A very hazardous assignment given that our record on the doubles court against anyone outside our own walls is anything but stellar. The Windsor women can’t seem to be intimidated and duly sent our boys packing after 3 swift, crushing games. Thankfully, the DAC reclaimed the Cross Border trophy anyway that day – and at least Sante redeemed himself by winning his singles match.

The “What Ever Happened To This Guy” award goes to… Rob Welch!

He’s probably currently in some exotic location, wrestling lions and drinking ‘Dos Equis’, conjuring up another eccentric adventure. Rob Welch is still a member, and left for a “couple of months” to California over the summer, never to be seen since. Here he is in a familiar pose / position surrounded by beautiful women during the Toledo Open back in March. (I do of course talk in jest - we all hope for Rob’s return to Detroit and the DAC soon and his when he does I can’t wait to hear about all of his Californication.)

The “Here’s Looking at You Kid” award goes to… Anthony Fracchia!

Who is Anthony pointing at? I’m not sure this is the hand signal you want to be making in Detroit and his devious smile may suggest some sinister going on in his mind, but when you win back-to-back Holiday Tournaments (this year’s honors were shared with Derek Aguirre) I guess you earn the right to ‘showboat’ a little. But seriously, Anthony is a great competitor and his enjoyment with his squash (and rapid improvement) is obvious. This is Anthony’s second “Mickies” award, to go with his “I Wonder What It Is?” award from last year – a photo also taken from the Holiday Tournament. Clearly, he likes his booze wrapped up in colorful paper.

The “Imper-SUH-nator” award goes to… David Pontes!
Carrying on the Detroit Lions tradition of kicking your opponent when their down, after David Pontes makes quick work of Justin Winkelman on the squash court during the Keg Challenge, he wastes no time in digging the boot in. David swears it was a complete accident, as he lost balance and was merely attempting to extract his foot out of the middle of Justin’s back after he inexplicably dove under it. No one is buying it, Dave… I doubt there will be a two game suspension this being his first offence, but we may have to keep a closer eye on him.

Friday, December 23, 2011

MEET A MEMBER - 10

Squash enthusiast? That’s an understatement. This guy loves squash so much, he decided he wanted to help run the sport in this state. When he joined the DAC in August, it didn’t take him 1 week before he had registered for squash lesson subscriptions, 2 leagues, the ladders and 1 doubles tournament! Apparently, it is possible not to have enough activities! If you are looking for him, try searching one of the courts first…

MEET… JOSH SLOMINSKI

The Squash Joint (TSJ): Describe to us how your DAC experience has been so far? Has it met your expectations?

The DAC has exceeded my expectations in every way.  The locker rooms, food services, squash activities are top notch.  I'm proud to be a member of the DAC.  Now if only something could be done about jeans. Hmmm…

TSJ: You work in the technology field. Tell us what a typical Josh Slominski work day looks like.

Ooh, typical day.  Well first I come in and check my email, then I play some flash games, then I check my personal email.  After that I play more games... Oh, I mean, um yeah, awkward.

More seriously, it depends on what phase of the project we are currently in.  Right now we are coming to the end feature development and starting to move in to bug fixing.  Once every 4 weeks, we commit to a set of features and work only on that.  I am currently working on implementing a graphical weather overlay on the standard Navigation map.  When that's done I will be moving into a testing phase.  My goal is find as many issues with the radio as possible.  Our team collects the results and divides the bugs up amongst all of our team members to fix.

TSJ: If you aren’t working or playing squash, what do you do in your spare time? 

I am a member of OmniCorpDetroit.  OCD is a hacker space located in Eastern Market.  A hacker space is a collective where people go to share ideas and collaborate on projects.  Some projects we have worked on are: Air Cannons, Robots, Laser Tag Systems, and Power Wheels. There are about 25 members in the group.  We all pay $100/month.  That money is used for rent, utilities, projects, etc.  

The project I am most proud of is our Banana Car Power Wheel.  We took a medical scooter (like the ones in Wal-Mart and Target) and stripped it down to its controls, motor, and seat.  We built a 10 speaker sound system around it. It features 2 12" sub-woofers, 2 10" sub-woofers, 4 6x9, 2 30mm tweeters, 3 car amplifiers, 1 car battery, and a 1.5 farad capacitor.  Needless to say IT’S MIND-BLOWINGLY LOUD!!!! We raced it at the power wheels race that was held at Maker Faire over the summer.

TSJ: You get drenched by atomic waste. Rather than dying an agonizingly slow death, you develop a super power of your choice. What power do you choose?

Tough choice.  It’s a toss-up between scoring hot chicks or hitting the nick on demand. 

TSJ: You joined the Michigan Squash board. What exactly motivated you to do so, and even though many important changes have been made, what further improvements need to be accomplished?

Three years ago Hugh Stalker mentioned that, at that time, the MSRA wanted to start a rating/ranking system.  It sounded like a fun job so I contacted him about it.  I was invited to a board meeting and with our even realizing it I became a board member.

Michigan Squash still has a way to go.  It has a really a really bad reputation that needs to get changed.  I think we have made huge progress in our branding and website.  I feel the new website has proper form but it's not very functional yet.  With Mick's help we completely revamped the way the travel league works.  I feel that we need to take a hard look at our tournaments and ensure that they are being run with the same standards and dedication that the travel league is.

TSJ: Who is your current squash ‘nemesis’ and why?

Mike Ng.  I lost to him 3-0 in the Boasters League.  One game was by 1 point and another was by 2 points. If I had beaten him, team “Vivio's” would have gone from worst to first. 

TSJ: Tell us three pet peeves that you really have zero patience for.

Excessive cussing.
Talking in the restroom/shower
Excessive Alcoholic consumption

TSJ: What is the most satisfying aspect of playing squash? What do find the most difficult aspect of playing squash?
  
I love the challenge and strategy of the game.  It's like a game of chess at 100 mph.  Make a bad shot and your opponent will make you look like a fool.  But, play the right shot and you will have him running around the court like a chicken with its head cut off. 

TSJ: The atomic waste has suddenly given you the ability to bring cartoon characters to real life. You are allowed to bring back 3 characters but the catch is you have to live with them. Who do you choose?

Stewie from ‘Family Guy’
Beavis and Butt-head.  Huh-huh.

TSJ: Tell us your least favorite…
a)      Movie… Fast and the Furious 
b)      Famous person… Justin Beiber 
c)      Music band… Nickleback 
d)      Food… Olives 
e)      Class at school… English 
f)        Sport… Squash, I mean soccer 

TSJ: Describe for us your best squash win. Then, describe to us your worst squash loss.

When I came to the DAC I challenged myself to win a tournament before the end of the year.  I entered the Blitz tournament with high hopes.  I played my butt off and was the only person to win every game I played. Granted, I was handicapped for most of my matches, but it still felt great to bring home the win.

The morning after the blitz tournament I played Mike Reno.  My legs were so tired from the tournament the previous day, I couldn't move around the court.  It was very frustrating knowing that I had the stamina to get around the court, but my legs just wouldn’t move as quickly as I wanted them to.

TSJ: This last question is designed to make you think. And for us reading the answer, make us wonder about you. If you had to enter a competition for the "Most Uselessly Unique Talent," what would your talent be?

I don't know if it’s useless but, I follow a straight edge lifestyle.


Thank you to Josh for being such a good sport. Although I wonder why anyone would want to bring a homicidal baby and the two dumbest cartoon characters to life... that can only end badly! With his energy and assistance with Michigan Squash, things can only improve and benefit all of us in Detroit and the DAC is lucky to have as such an active member. If all of our squash players played as much as he did, we’d need 12 courts!

Monday, December 19, 2011

ALL ABOARD THE DAC CLASSIC EXPRESS

DAC Squash Classic – February 9-12

Deep breath in… and… exhale… Deep breath in… and… exhale… That’s me preparing myself for the onslaught of the behemothic weekend that is the DAC Squash Classic. Even before I opened this event up for registrations, I was receiving e-mails from our Canadian buddies wanting to sign-up. I couldn’t do that, but I know a couple of them did in fact reserve their hotel room anyway. So, once again, I am expecting we will reach capacity before the actual registration deadline of January 27.

As with previous years, the tournament formula will stay the same. Singles categories are 2.5 through to 5.5, and the three doubles events are A, B, and C. Numerous times I have been asked about adding a mixed doubles category, but alas, we simply do not have the court space to do it. And anyway, the women players from Canada have proven on more than one occasion they can hold their own!

Because entry numbers are limited and court space could not be at more of a premium, it is extremely important to take note of the following restrictions and the expected availability of all the players:

Ø  Maximum 16 teams in any one doubles category
Ø  Maximum 40 doubles teams allowed spread over the 3 categories
Ø  Any player entering the ‘A’ doubles category is NOT allowed to enter the ‘C’ doubles category, regardless of partner
Ø  One match guaranteed in any doubles draw
Ø  Maximum 32 players in any one singles category
Ø  Two matches guaranteed in any one singles draw
Ø  Maximum 145 registrations for the entire event
Ø  Walkovers / forfeits count as a match
Ø  Minimum age to enter the tournament is 13
Ø  All singles matches will use PAR scoring to 11

2012 Entry Form
You are allowed to enter two categories; however, we do not recommend such practice. Mainly because the amount of matches you can end up playing over the weekend pile up, possibly with no rest between them, and often players are withdrawing from one event half way through.  (Especially in consolation rounds.) It is unfair to your fellow competitors if you cannot make yourself available for every match. People enter to play, not to have forfeits awarded to them. And that spot in the draw could be taken up by some who could play. Also, take into consideration the amount of ‘partying’ you may be partaking in – once again, it is common that players ‘sleep in’ the next morning and leave their early rising opponents stranded. I am aware that you may want to take advantage of the weekend and get in as much squash as possible, but please be realistic and considerate.

By signing up to the DAC Classic, you are agreeing to the following playing times. Once the schedules have been completed, rearranging is a virtual nightmare and - quite frankly – I shouldn’t have to do any.

For players in the Detroit areas – including Windsor, Toledo, Ann Arbor, and Lansing:
Ø  Thursday, February 9 between 4pm and 11pm
Ø  Friday, February 10 between 3pm and midnight
Ø  Saturday, February 11 between 8am and 8pm
Ø  Sunday, February 12 between 8am and 4pm

For all other players:
Ø  Friday, February 10 between 3pm and midnight
Ø  Saturday, February 11 between 8am and 8pm
Ø  Sunday, February 12 between 8am and 4pm

This doesn't mean you will be playing so early or late, but make sure you set your schedule accordingly just in case you do.

The support from our membership for this event is nothing short of phenomenal – all eight main sponsors from 2011 continued their invaluable support for February’s event. Please make sure you take time over the weekend to sincerely thank the following members – it is because of their help, this tournament has reached the stratosphere it has:

• Skidmore Inc. – Patrick Petz
• Smith Barney – Sean Moran
• Maverick – Jim Stroh
• Corbet, Shaw, Essad & Tucciarone – Bruce Shaw
• SVS Vision – Ken Stann
• Metropolitan Baking Co. – George Kordas
• AARO Companies – Tom Fabbri
• Adlhoch & Associates – Scott Adlhoch
• Outrigger Imagine – Joe Schaden
• Holloway – Mike Doyle

So be quick. If you plan on playing, enter early. If you wait until the deadline, you will most likely miss out and be placed on a waitlist. Registrations will only be accepted with payment. You must either – call me, e-mail me, or send me the entry form through snail mail. You cannot register on-line.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

BAKER’S BEER RUN

I think above all else, I was most surprised that the keg wasn’t emptied! I don’t think I saw the thing without a member or two attached to the lever all evening – which of course was the point. The Beer Challenge managed 29 players, plus a handful of spectators that just came down to enjoy the show. That ‘show’ being the Brien Baker and Matt Jarboe loser-pays-for-the-keg confrontation. But first we’ll cover the other lead up matches. 
Mike Counsman and Eric Green
post match

 Anyone who has been a squash playing member of the DAC for more than a couple of years would have remembered Mike Counsman. A very enthusiastic player and the type of person that gets others involved. Well – I’m extremely pleased to say he’s back. And he’s hardly skipped a beat. Or beer. Or meal. And he still hits a decent ball. My welcome back gift to him was for him play Eric Green. Those two are the perfect match off the court – and as it turned out – on the court as well. Eric won the match 12-10 in the fifth.
Uncle Fester

We had two other 5-setters for the evening. Jeff Jardine squeaked past Frank Giglio and Andy Housey kept his nose just in front of Anil Kathuria. Anil in fact took on double duty which he may have wished he hadn’t signed up for after his first match, but he immediately tackled Mark Monaghan afterwards. He went down 3-0 in that one. Another six matches ended up 3-1, including the one doubles match.

All was set up perfectly for the main attraction. All the other matches were done, the crowd had full cups (were they ever empty?), my camera was ready, all that was left was the action. It is important to note, that it was also Matt Jarboe’s birthday and I’m sure there was nothing more Brien wanted to give him than a gift wrapped bill for the keg.

Brien Baker and Matt Jarboe
 The first game was almost over before the spectators were settled. I don’t think Matt was settled either as many of his shots ended up in the middle just inviting Brien to put the ball away. The 11-4 score was not very surprising. The second however, was a complete reversal. Maybe the first game was too easy and Brien relaxed, but Matt came out as we are accustomed to seeing  him – running every shot down like his life depended on it, almost trying to look as awkward as possible to throw his opponent off their game. It apparently worked and he ran away with the game 11-4.

Now I didn’t see either of the players swig a beer between games (which of course is not part of rules, despite the nature of the event) and in hindsight it was probably a good idea. I cannot imagine what would happen if Matt was anything but sober while Tasmanian-deviling around a squash court like he does. He’d probably end up embedded into a wall.

Despite walking into the third game with all the momentum, Matt found himself once again at odds and ends. Struggling with length and regularly getting trapped behind Brien who was starting to dominate the ‘T’, Matt could only rely on his Houdini-like escapes with death-defying court coverage. All Brien really had to do was keep the ball out of the tin and simply let Matt sprint, dive, scramble, clamber, stampede, charge, plunge, lurch, and hurtle himself from shot to shot. In addition it appeared Matt was becoming frustrated and tenser with every rally. For the most part, Brien was successful just enough and helped along by Matt’s three over-the-back-wall shots in the fourth game alone, took the next two sets 11-8 and 11-7. Just to rub salt into Matt’s wounds a little more, it was Brien’s first win over him in their last 6 matches.  

Not that matters, nor would it be any comfort to Matt, but his team did end up winning overall 8 matches to 6. It was a competition played in the best of spirits, just as all squash events should. A big thank you to the protagonists for putting on a compelling exhibition, and to all the other members for making the atmosphere the reason we do this.
 
Say "Cheers!"

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

TEAMS OF A CENTURY

Doubles 100 – Starting January 10, 2012

Whip out the calculator, or if you are not so technologically savvy, your abacus, and start evaluating your potential doubles partner! Starting on January 10 is the Doubles 100 Tournament where you and your partner’s ages must add up to at least 100 years. And I suggest you lock your partner in quickly. There will be an ‘A’ and a ‘B’ draw, and I expect the competition to be fierce.

Last year, the B final was decided by 1 sudden-death point as Joe Moran and Ken Katz lost 18-17 in the fifth game to Mike Petix and John Chouinard and I am sure Joe and Ken would like to avenge their loss. In the A’s, Bob Thibodeau and Bowden Brown lost for the first time in 3 years to Peter Logan and Patrick Petz – and as competitive as Bob is and how this small friendly rivalry has developed, I am sure he has been waiting for this opportunity to retaliate.

The registration deadline is January 6. You must sign-up with a partner, so practice your addition and start searching. The draws will be knock-out, no consolation, all matches are best of 5 games. It will be your responsibility to make sure you play the match within the deadline given or face the penalty of death… um, I mean forfeit. Be respectful of your fellow members’ schedule and be flexible. The winners of each draw will receive a stitched shirt with their names on them for the entire world to see and bow down to their success!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

AND THE FIRST HALF WINNER IS…


Boasters League first half final standings~~

I wonder who from the non-winning teams will be kicking themselves now. Should haves, could haves, just a couple extra points here, a game there, should have shown up one more Wednesday... I can’t remember when the final standings have ended up so tight between the four top teams. But – and I’m sure I’ll hear a collective groan form the other 8 captains – Patrick Petz has done it again (is he really Tim Tebow in disguise?) and his team “Town Pump” has taken the first half honors.

It is a victory well deserved for his team. They have been in the top 3 of the standings since round 2, although never in the lead until it really counted the most – at the end. “Vivio’s” fell 1 point short, but their run was extremely impressive over the last 3 weeks; they were dead last after round 7 and 50 points off first. That’s a huge effort! Speaking of last place, “O’Blivions” receives that accolade which is not surprising considering for most of the season they were never higher than 7th place anyway – and that was way back after round 1. As usual, I like to go through the results and list out a few interesting statistics:

  • 71% of the total matches were completed. That’s 4% less than the first half last year.
  • Round 1 had the most matches completed with 83%. Round 9 had the least amount of matches completed with 52%
  • The cancelled round 2 (because of the Tigers play-offs) had 77% of the matches played.
  • 1st Place Lounge” played the most matches with 79%. “Anchor” played the least with 64%.
  • 1st Place Lounge” also collected the most bonus points with 51. That’s 2 more than the second best “Speakeasys”.
  • 1st Place Lounge” had the lowest win percentage in the league with 37%. Hence they didn’t end up on top.
  • O’Blivions” and “Jacoby’s” only gathered 33 bonus points each – league lowest. 3rd lowest total goes to “Anchor”. These 3 teams finished 7th, 8th, and 9th. Speaks volumes.
  • Overall, 56% of the matches ended up with a 2-1 score line.
  • 9 players collected all possible bonus points.
  • 16 players played all 8 of their matches. None of them went through undefeated. (There are 108 players in the league.)

The halfway ‘All Star’ standings are very close. Listed below are the current leaders in their position. Keep in mind that I will be shuffling the teams around for the second half but players will carry through their first half points. ‘All Star’ points are an accumulation of games won and bonus points.

Ted Mabley and Arnaud Mangin


  1. Anthony Fracchia
  2. Paul Ward
  3. Al Iafrate
  4. Jerry Rock and Arnaud Mangin
  5. Brendan Fossee
  6. Andy Housey
  7. Sante Fratarcangeli
  8. Mark Monaghan
  9. Ted Mabley
  10. Jason Massey
  11. Tom Delaney
  12. Jim Miller

The second half of the season starts on Wednesday, January 4. All teams start at zero. Once again, you will play everyone once, and then there are 3 weeks of finals where the top 6 teams advance, the last 3 are eliminated. I’ll be sending out the adjusted rosters in the next couple of weeks. I will do my best to keep you on the same team, but that won’t always be possible. Either way, you should (hopefully) be in for a very competitive second half.

Monday, December 12, 2011

RECLAIMING THE FARRIS CUP

The BAC sent out a statement last January when they came to our home club and pounded us into submission with a convincing win in the Farris Cup. We won only 4 of the 15 matches and were forced to lick our wounds and wear sun glasses and false moustaches in public. Gratefully, the time for redemption is close at hand!

On Saturday, January 7, the forces have been brought together to storm their courts and repossess the hallowed prize. The Farris Cup will be in its 8th year and it has turned into a tradition that for our members who qualify to represent the DAC, is a privilege and honor. Winners and finalists from the 2011 Club Championships earn the right to fight for the Farris Cup in 12 singles matches and 3 doubles matches.

This event is played in the memory of John C. Farris who passed away in 2004. John was a member of both the DAC and BAC and was a tireless promoter of the sport. He was a good friend of both George Haggarty and Walter Oehrlein who founded this competition.

Matches start at 2.00pm at the BAC, and we encourage as many of you as possible to come on down and cheer on our lads in their tighty-whiteys (you have to wear all white clothing on court at the BAC!). Julian (BAC pro) and I will also be playing an exhibition game during the event. Representing our fine establishment to successfully bring the Farris Cup back home (I am such the optimist!): Tom Fabbri – Sante Fratarcangeli – Robin Basil – Arnaud Mangin – Anthony Fracchia – Chris Van Tol – Matt Jarboe – Brien Baker – George Kordas – Eric Green – Peter Logan (captain) – John Rakolta – Kirk Haggarty – John Birgbauer – Bob Thibodeau – Bowden Brown – Peter Shumaker – Sandy MacDonald.

Hope to see as many of you as possible there!

Monday, December 5, 2011

SHARING THE CHRISTMAS CHEER

Holiday Tournament – December 2

The 8th running of the Holiday Tournament experienced its smallest participation level so far. That was naturally disappointing but we did have enough to run it, and the overall standard was probably at its highest.

Anthony Fracchia won this event last year and was certainly one of the favorites to repeat his success. But standing firmly in his way would be the other on-paper favorite, Derek Aguirre. One of the beauties of the Holiday Tournament format is that luck of the draw can play a big part on the final results. Since just about every round is drawn randomly, there is no guarantee that the better players won’t knock themselves out of contention early on. In the third of four rounds, Anthony and Derek played each other.

Each match is only 2 games to 15 points (no tie-break). Anthony and Derek played what seemed long enough for at least 4 games. Justice prevailed at the end after the two had worked themselves endlessly around the court when the score ended up 1 game apiece. Since they split the points, going into the final round both of them were actually 1 point behind on the standings to Bruce Vande Vusse who had quietly gone about his business and won his first three matches 2-0.

All Bruce had to do was to win 1 game against Anthony in the final match and he would be guaranteed first place. A tough ask. Made even tougher when half way through the first game, Bruce injured his elbow. Whether he would have won a game anyway is debatable – Anthony is one tough hombre – but the 2-0 loss pushed Bruce from first place to tied for second (with Rich Stimson). Derek also won his final match of the evening against Andy Adamo 2-0, which in the end gave us dual winners. Congratulations to Anthony Fracchia and Derek Aguirre. In third place, all on his own, was Anil Kathuria.

It was nice to see everybody involved get into the Christmas spirit. The absence of Patrick Petz this year – who always dresses himself in the appropriate seasonal colors – was more than made up by Sante Fratarcangeli and Chuck Doyle who looked more like giant elves than squash players. Chuck mentioned he forgot to fill his pockets with jingle bells too… I think we are all thankful for that.

As always, the majority of the gifts were alcohol related. I did see a tool set in there – but it also came with a bottle of wine. Nothing like encouraging someone to down a liter of red and then trying to construct something. Andy Adamo picked that one - I would not be surprised if he comes in this week with a broken thumb. Mercifully there is nothing to add to the banned substances list for 2012, and keep in mind, the squash pro is not on the banned list for receiving.

Left to right back row: Jon Walton; Derek Aguirre, Chuck Doyle, David Pontes, Andy Adamo; Rich Stimon, Bruce Vande Vusse, Amil Kathuria, Ted Morris, Matt Hayduk
Left to right front row: Sante Fratarcangeli, 'Esquire' Anthony Fracchia, Bob Rogers


Friday, December 2, 2011

PST CATCH A WAEL

The signing of David Palmer to PST last month was an enormous boost to the tour. I suppose however, that the only negative I could see from it was the lack of competition for him. Sure, the other players are of an excellent standard, but you can’t really place them at the same level of a 2-time World Champion, top 10 legend such as Palmer. When would true opposition present itself, and from who? It didn’t take long to answer that. With the latest signing, the tour just become a lot more interesting – and flamboyant.
Egyptian Wael El Hindi is the latest top PSA player to commit to the tour. Based in New York, his November world ranking was 27 – which is a lot lower than his career high of 8 back in 2008. He has spent 27 months in the top ten, including a major tournament win in Egypt in 2008 and a US Open title in 2010. With his ranking as ‘low’ as it is, moving to the PST makes perfect sense. He brings a unique personality, fashion sense, and style by playing with that well-known Egyptian flair. El Hindi played Palmer 9 times on the PSA tour – but he failed to beat him even once. Of all those defeats, only 2 of them were 3-0, meaning the other 7 were very competitive. I am sure the two players are no less determined to beat each other now than what they were on the PSA, and I’m sure El Hindi will break his losing streak eventually.

It will be very interesting to see how he adapts to the PST’s no ‘let’ rule. El Hindi was renowned on tour for his numerous interactions with the referee, as a notorious blocker, and as a ‘let’ machine. (The Squash Poet took aim at him here: http://thesquashjoint.blogspot.com/2011/09/squash-poet-7.html .) He is by all accounts an exceedingly fine fellow – I have met him a few times – so maybe with the PST rule restrictions, his squash will clean up tremendously and his silky soft racquet skills will do the talking for him! Not that has much choice, PST clamp down harshly on any player misbehavior. Either way, with El Hindi in the mix – who is 6 feet 2 and just fractionally shorter than Palmer – add on the human squash cannon John White (at 6 foot 1), and if those three qualify in the top 8 by the end of the season, the possible match-ups come the DAC event in May should make your mouth water uncontrollably. The pot just gets sweeter.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

IT’S ANYONE’S GUESS NOW

Boasters League round 8~~
The only team that kept its round 7 position on the Ladder was “1st Place Lounge”. The courts have been humming recently with the huge push from most players to get their matches in. (Add on the amount of box ladder matches we had as well, and the finding a time to play is becoming rather challenging.) Biggest point-picker-uppers happened to be “Vivio’s” who over the past 7 days added on 36 and jumped from last to 7th and are only 16 points off 2nd. If they have another week like this one, they’ll overtake the current league leaders. Speaking of which, “1st Place Lounge” have to sit idly by for the final round and watch everybody else play catch-up.

With the standings experiencing an almost complete shake-up, and the scores tightening up tremendously, it will be anyone’s guess who will end up with the first half league leading honors. Obviously teams “Town Pump” and “Speakeasys” have the best shot since they are 2nd and 3rd respectively, but it really is too close to call. Also, if anyone needs any extra motivation, “Town Pump” is captained by Patrick Petz, and we all know how much he’ll rub it in your faces if he happens to get through!

Before everyone starts to beg for an extension on the match completion deadline, just let me nip it in the bud by saying, “no”. December 9 (inclusive) is the day all scores need to be in. Now, I’m not that much of a scrooge and here is the loophole because I won’t be working on the 10th – being a Saturday – so I will not be able to finalize all the scores until the following Monday morning. Any results coming in to me after I have calculated, added, subtracted, evaluated, theorized, multiplied, divided, triangulated, postulated, computed, and deviated will not be taken into consideration.

Another thing to keep in mind is at the halfway mark of the season, I will be looking at everybody’s win / loss records and adjusting your team position accordingly. I will make every effort to keep you on your current team, but that is not always possible. All teams will start the second half with zero points. You have 8 days…

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

WITH A KEG HANGING OVER THEIR HEADS

On Wednesday, December 14, get ready for the next Beer Challenge “Celebrity Keg Match”. This is where I grab two mates who are also gracious rivals on the court, throw them into the squash arena to test just how good their friendship is as they battle it out to see who will be left with paying for the keg.

Just for kicks and giggles, I will also organize a game for anyone interested in playing too. I will split everyone up into 2 teams and attempt to give you an opponent of equal strength as you play a best of 5, no-holds-barred, all-out, no-mercy, match. At the end of the day, which team wins is utterly insignificant as you are not held responsible for paying for the beer, just responsible for drinking it. Last year we had 32 registrations, so let’s see if we can top it.

Once all the “inconsequential” bouts have finished, and you have all (re)filled your mugs, it is time to pull up a chair, or piece of carpet, relax, and get excited for the main attraction…

Let’s get ready to rummmmblllllle…!

In the right corner, weighing in at an even 200 pounds and a wing span that would rival a 747, hailing from the remote jungle areas of St. Clair Shores, coming in with a 2011 record of 19 wins, 17 losses, and 5 hang-overs, the “menace-that-played-tennis”, he’s “jolly-when-he-volleys”,… BRIEN – “why-isn’t-my-name-spelt-with-an-a” – BAKER!

And…

In the left corner, weighing in at a bulky 185 pounds and a t-shirt 2 sizes too small, residing in the dangerous dank corners of Grosse Pointe Woods, boasting an impressive 2011 record of 36 wins, 15 losses, and not one single ‘let’ call, the “racquetballer mauler”, the “hustle with the muscle”,… MATT – “watch-me-do-court-sprints” – JARBOE!

Action a plenty is guaranteed when Brien and Matt start whacking away. Matt has won their past 5 meetings and appears to have that mental edge. But with a keg on the line, things are sure to be more intense than usual.

Registration deadline is Monday, December 12 if you would like to play. If not, come on down anyway and watch the carnage… I mean bloodshed… I mean massacre… ummm beer and squash.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

MY EXPERIENCE WITH PST AND THE NO ‘LET’ RULE

In the squash community, the PST (Pro Squash Tour) seems to be a little like the New York Yankees – you either love ‘em, or you hate ‘em. Ever since Joe McManus started this tour about 18 months ago with the no ‘let’ rule, controversy has ensued. The tour is growing rapidly, and PSA ban their players from competing; the rule itself has met much criticism, and from what I read on the squash forums, some (if not most) of that disparagement is from people who have never seen the rule in action and simply speculate. Even I wrote a disapproving article without ever witnessing it. But now, I have personal experience from watching and playing in the recent PST tournament held in Cleveland.

As I feared, my draw was not particularly kind. Recently retired from the world tour when ranked number 9, David Palmer’s PST debut was me. It was an experience to cherish. Not too many players can boast about playing a match with such a legend of the sport, and through the entire 3 games we played, through the agony of exploring every single square millimeter of the floor boards, through the torture of oxygen deprivation as David extended the rallies at will, the wobbly knees, the circling stars, I played well and adored every second of it. In case you’re wondering, I lost (du’h!) 14-12 (had him 10-8…!), 11-5, 11-6.

Interference in our match was rare. With the guillotine of the referee’s ‘no-let’ decision hanging on every call, asking for a let in the first place is a risk. Unless you are sure it’s a stroke, you need to get used to playing the ball. Putting the shoe on the other foot, the fear of the ‘stroke’ for not clearing properly definitely makes you take that extra step away to allow your opponent in. It takes a little to get accustomed to. David asked for one let in the first game, and I asked for one in the third and we both instantaneously knew we should not have done so. Both lets were denied and rightly so. Under normal rules, these calls were 100% lets, and 30+ odd years of playing that way makes it a tough habit to break when requesting a let on such trivial interference situations.

I watched the other 3 quarter final matches, the 3rd / 4th playoff and the final (I missed the semis) and paid close attention to the no ‘let’ rule and the affect on the squash. The word that came to mind was… “refreshing”. Of all the matches I watched, there may have been a total of 25 requests for lets. If that. Play was continuous, that is, rallies were not being interrupted by constant appeals from the players. Because of that, because of the players making an overall greater effort to play the ball and clear, many of the rallies were rather spectacular, athletic, long, and the reaction from the crowd was extremely positive. PST rules are also extremely strict on player behavior. There is a no tolerance position on arguing, verbal or racquet abuse. This is of course does not stop all the issues – but eliminates 95% of it. Players still get emotional, and those emotions can get the better of them. But compared to what I have regularly witnessed at PSA events, it was absolutely no comparison.

But before you all think I’ve been sold on the rule, I’m not. Not yet anyway. It is not a perfect system and there are still issues. Although abolishing any replay of the rally, there is still one common denominator you cannot escape from no matter what system is used: the referee. The PST rule actually puts the referee in a more stressful position. Now, when a player asks for a let, the referee is the one who must decide who wins the rally. There is no easy way out with a “yes-let”. If the score is 10-all in the 5th, such a call becomes incredibly crucial.

PST implements side judges for a challenge system too. Players are allowed 3 challenges per match – much like the NFL. Once the central referee makes a decision, a player can choose to challenge it to the side judges. If the side judges overrule the central referee, the player keeps the 3 challenges. The challenges do ease the pressure off the referee a little, but only slightly. I witnessed 3 calls that were overturned during the event (that I remember), and probably about the same that were upheld. But once a player has exhausted their challenges, the pressure returns squarely on the referee.

I am still convinced that some interference situations are simply ‘let’. Even though the amount of lets called over the tournament was (refreshingly) minimal, when the calls come up, some of the decisions were incredibly harsh if not bizarre. And, given the 2 options of ‘stroke’ or ‘no-let’, in some cases I had no idea. I guess the referee didn’t either. But he had to choose one. That’s where the system broke down for me. Thankfully, such situations were relatively scarce.

I do not have a solution. You cannot have it both ways. The spectators were thrilled with the show. I did not hear one single negative comment about the refereeing – at all. The referee was called upon to make a decision infrequently, and it was only a handful of those I found the decision perplexing. I have watched numerous PSA matches where the amount of lets, fishing, blocking, the arguing, gesturing, rudeness, disrespect towards the referee, was nauseating and the audience were not pleased. You could hear the murmurings, the jeers. Even if the squash was fantastic, the antics watered it down.) On one hand, the PST rule forces the players to go for (just about) every ball, the squash flows and the quality of the game reflects positively. On the other hand, the rule brings out some bewildering calls.

My verdict? An A-. I think Joe and the PST are well on the way. It works. The quality of the squash unquestionably outweighs the rare odd decision. All you have to do is speak to the people in the audience. Their comments are all about the squash, not the refereeing incidents. Over time, I am sure that these decisions will improve anyway as the referees understanding gets better.  Not only that, as more sponsors jump on board, more money becomes available, more players will join the tour. The quality of the squash will improve. Joe is constantly looking at ways to develop, tweak, further, the tour. The tour is for the fans, and the fans – who are the sponsors and are paying the bills - loved it. The DAC is in for a treat come May 2012.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

STEPPING IT UP

Boasters League round 7~~

Now, that’s more like it. Maybe because it’s getting closer to the end of the first half, or maybe because Thanksgiving is next week and people need to feel they can justify porking out on turkey and stuffing by playing plenty of squash leading up to it, but either way the past 7 days have turned in an abundance of scores. Surprisingly, none more than the “O’Blivions”.

I haven’t been terribly kind to team “O’Blivions” over recent weeks due to their lack of play, but they picked up over 30 points through the week, including 8 bonus points last night, 3 more than their previous best. Their reward was to drag themselves out of last place to second last place (that dubious honor is now held by team “Vivio’s”) and as minimally gratifying as that sounds, they have in fact put themselves within reaching distance of the teams above them. They are still 24 points off second place, but that’s significantly better than the 42 points that separated them last week! “1st Place Lounge” still enjoys top standing and has increased their lead to 20 points over “Old Shillelagh” who now will have to endure the bye in week 8.

I expect (hope!) that since round 8 is not scheduled for 2 weeks, that players will take this golden opportunity to make up as many matches as possible. There is only 1 player in the league that has managed to complete all their matches so far and remain undefeated – Ted Mabley (“Town Pump”). As more results come in however, additional names may be added to this list but to have only one out of the 108 (for now) is a little unusual.

So enjoy your turkeys and family, enjoy watching the Lions win - although they are playing the Packers who are more than overdue for a bad performance, but make sure you get your matches done!

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