Thursday, January 27, 2011


Boasters League round 4~~

The allure of free food and drink once again magically pulled the DAC members into the clubhouse. Or was it the opportunity to express your right to vote? Either way, the club was full, the courts were full, the fitness room was full… alas, it all happened one day before the boasters league night!

Election hangover hit round 4 hard. Only 8 matches were played, just enough to keep the tumbleweeds from blowing down the ‘T’ line. Team “Mongoose” has increased their lead on top of the standings to 15 points, while the next 7 teams have bunched themselves together rather snugly. Only 11 points separate 2nd from 8th so a lot of shuffling around can be expected by this time next week. “Delta Force” has dropped further behind and are now 18 points in the rears, and 22 points out of a finals berth. They have a lot of work to do.

Courts and Pints” are appearing to break the generally accepted ‘bonus point’ rule of thumb where the more bonus points a team has, the more higher on the standings they are. While they sit 3rd on the ladder, they have the least amount of bonus points of the nine teams (16) – and they haven’t even had their ‘bye’ week yet. “Delta Force” also has 16, but they have had the ‘bye’ – and they are dead last.

Just about half way through the second half of the season and leading the league in total accumulated points so far is Daniel Honer (“Courts and Pints”) with 14, and then Paul Huth (“Mongoose”) and Tom Bergh (“Mr. Daniels Walking”) have the next highest with 12. They are many, many matches to make up and they are piling up on people very, very quickly. Time’s a tickin’…

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The State of International Squash

It doesn’t get on television. It’s never in the papers. It’s not Olympic. In America, I would guess that if you asked 30 random people on the street, 29 of them would have never heard of it. Yet squash is one of the most physically demanding sports in the world, its athletes some of the worlds fittest and it may surprise you that is played in over 175 countries around the globe.

And even in this club amongst the active squash players themselves, how many of them would know who the current world number one player is? Significantly less than half, I’d bet. But, I’d wager just about all of them know who the world’s number one tennis player is…

Squash has been fighting for the recognition it thinks it deserves ever since I can remember picking up that wooden racquet that weighed over 250 grams! Almost thirty-five years later, little has changed. Oh, the racquets have – but the publicity has not. Is that about to change?

Squash, it seems, is also fighting itself. Everyone knows that in order for a business to survive and thrive, all components in that business need to work together towards a common goal. In this case, the growth of the sport. A few months ago I wrote an article referring to the Professional Squash Association’s (PSA) ban of its players to participate in the new US “Pro Squash Tour” (PST) tournament circuit. (See: Joe McManus - PST commissioner (and brain child) - and the PSA attempted to negotiate and solve their differences to no avail. So, the PST sued. In one incident, a PSA player defied the ban and competed in a PST tournament anyway. That player – American Ned Marks – was in turn banned by the PSA for 1 month. He was removed from the 2011 Tournament of Champions event. (PST article regarding the ban: I cannot find any statement from the PSA on this matter.)

McManus recently withdrew the suit. Mentioning high court costs and lengthy trials as the main reason, he has decided to use the money instead towards creating another circuit – the “Premier Squash Tour” and has also offered $100,000 to the first top 10 player who signs a deal to commit to playing the PST. Rumors have it, that Thierry Lincou will be that player. (See:$100k.html) (“Premier Squash Tour” is not the same as PST; they are exhibition type events that cater to the needs and wants of each hosting club, whereas PST is a ranking circuit using the ‘no-let’ rule.) McManus has not been shy of his intentions. As a small example of how involved McManus is in his goals, when I wrote an article on this little blog lambasting the controversial PST’s “no-let” rule (see:, Joe called me personally to a) thank me for the article and b) rationally discuss it. (He didn’t convince me otherwise, but I was definitely felt privileged that he took the time to call and was impressed that he reached out!)

He is in this to make money. He is in this to make money for the players. It’s profit driven. The PSA is not. The PSA board is made up of mainly ex touring pros that are not educated in the field of running an association properly. I'm not trying to criticize here, but it's true. Just because they played the tour, doesn’t mean they know how to operate it. That’s like expecting myself to be able to run the Starbuck’s shop down the street just because I buy my coffee there every day. The PST is a business that relies on being successful in order to survive. Through marketing, advertising, promotion. The product has to be excellent; otherwise they do not make money.

Is that bad for the sport? I don’t think so. McManus is doing something the PSA can’t: raise dollars and the profile of squash in the States. There is an untapped market here. Clubs are private, members have deep pockets. McManus’ events are cheaper and easier to run. However, clubs deciding to run one will not get the luxury of watching Ramy Ashour, or Nick Matthew, or a Willstrop, Gaultier, Shabana, etc. You will have to go watch a top class PSA event for that. McManus tournament players will most likely be top Americans, some club pros, ex-PSA and PSA players at the end (or near the end) of their careers based in the US that no longer tour as much, such as John White, David Palmer, Thierry Lincou. Still top quality – but not quite the best of the best. (On the other side of that argument, talking with club members here there is little difference to them watching a pro ranked 50 compared to a pro ranked 1. It’s all exceptional to them.)

Eventually, that could change. If the McManus tour(s) grow as he is predicting, with more events for more money, that will only attract more players. More players equals better standard. Which could lead to a world class tour rivaling the PSA based right on our doorstep.

PST website:
PST overview:
PSA website:
PSA world rankings Jan 2011:

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Boasters League Round 3~~

Just like the well known story of the tortoise and the hare, team “Courts and Pints” seem to have the motto of “slow and steady wins the race”. They are not exactly breaking any records for Wednesday attendance. In fact, 3 weeks in and they only have a paltry 14 bonus points which is the second fewest in the league, compared to the 26 “Winky-Dinks” have picked up. However, what they lack in presence, they are making up for in playing matches. They jumped from 8th to 3rd this week purely on all the games played throughout the past 7 days and picking up a steady flow of points. Now, unlike the fabled tortoise, I am not predicting they will be able to reach the finish line first, but if they continue on this path they will be giving them a decent chance for the play-offs.

Threepeat” suffered the most this week dropping from 1st to 7th. On the surface that looks bad, but they did have the ‘bye’ and are ahead of the other two teams who have had the ‘bye’ as well. “Winky-Dinks” have to endure sitting out week 4 and are bound to drop a few spots because of it. “Delta Force” needs to start looking into some “special ops” to dig themselves out of last spot. Out of a total of 24 matches they could have played, they have completed only 10 of them.

A lot of matches were played yesterday, many of which ended up 2-1. One of the more entertaining bouts that kept the handful of onlookers captivated was the Anthony Fracchia (“The Underdogs”) and James Van Dyke (“Courts and Pints”) encounter. The rallies were long, court coverage by both players was excellent, there was little (if any) interference which made it very clean with the absence of ‘let’ calls, and in the end it was Anthony taking the 2-1 victory. The photo is from their match with James lunging in for a backhand boast.

So onto round 4 – almost half way though… already! Time to step it up people!

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Boasters League Round 2~~

One way to guarantee people will turn up to a Boasters League night is to offer free food and alcohol. While getting them to into the building wasn’t the issue, getting them into their squash gear was. In all fairness, the 2nd Dividend is all about meeting the candidates for the upcoming DAC election so the social aspect of the evening does take precedent.

Only a handful of matches were played. Of the 16 results I have for round 2 (out of a maximum 48!), 13 of them ended up with a 2-1 score line. It appears competitive matches was the theme. Patrick Petz is leading his “Threepeat” team by example. He must have played well to take a 2-1 win over Matt Jarboe (“Delta Force”) and once again they are on top of the standings. They do have the bye for round 3, but are already well positioned for the remaining weeks.

Another good win went to Rich Stimson (“The Underdogs”) [pictured right] who beat Paul Huth (“Mongoose”) 2-1. The two had to figure out a few ‘let’ calls now and then, but when you have 2 players that haven’t played against each other very often, contrasting styles will do that. New comer to the league, Daniel Honer (“Courts and Pints”) won his first ever Boasters League match 2-1 over Glen Milligan (“Winky-Dinks”).

I know it’s “only” round 3 next week, but quite a few players are still yet to play a match for the second half – they will pile up very quickly if you don’t get going!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Since his initiation into squash through the Beginner Clinic a few months back, he hasn’t looked back. Signs of a squash addiction are popping up when you coax your girlfriend to take it up and bring in guests to hit with! He has already been a part of the box ladders for a while and we will no doubt be seeing him in leagues and tournaments in the not too distant future.


The Squash Joint (TSJ): “What convinced you to try squash in the first place and what aspect of the sport got you hooked?”

I don't get along with treadmills. Therefore, I'm always looking for other ways to stay in (more like get in) shape. I picked up tennis this past summer and thought it would be fun to try another racquet sport. The hook? It's a great workout and a lot of fun to play.

TSJ: “Has it been more difficult or easier than you expected?”

Easier. There always seems to be a keg around the courts downstairs. That's why you'll hardly ever see me play on courts 1 and 2.

TSJ: “Do you have any background in any other sport?”

I grew up playing football, hockey, and golf. Although my favorite sport to play while at the U of M was inner tube water polo.

TSJ: “If I picked up your iPod right now and turned it on, what song would I hear?”

Something by Seger.

TSJ: “Tell us about your first ever paying job.”

The public driving range was running low on golf balls. I was running low on cash and common sense. At 13 years old, I loved golf, had plenty of hockey gear, and always looked for an opportunity to drive something that had 4 wheels, an engine, and went over 20mph when you jammed a golf tee in the governor. The owner of the range paid me $5 an hour to suit up in my hockey gear and shag balls out of the weeds on foot. He didn't put a cap on my hours and nearly went broke trying to keep me on the payroll.

TSJ: “You now work for CBS Radio. What exactly do you do?”

I help both local and national advertisers grow their businesses through a combination of on-air, online, and on-site marketing solutions.

TSJ: “What are some of the things you enjoy doing in your spare time?”

When I'm not on the water, on the golf course, or on the snow, you can find me in Napa Valley. I love to eat and drink. Hence the reason I'm playing squash.

TSJ: “You have a time machine that you can use only once. Do you go back or forward in time?”

Back. I want to be around as long as possible. Plus, I'd love to do college twice.

TSJ: “If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be”?

Detroit. But I'd like to have a healthy travel budget someday.

TSJ: “Ever had a speeding ticket?”

Yes. I was also escorted by a squad car back to the driving range that same summer I shagged golf balls. The posted speed limit was 30, I was clocked at 27, but I was only 13 and was driving a golf cart. I was hungry and took the golf cart to Subway on my break.

TSJ: “And the one question people will no doubt judge you by, who is your favorite ‘Jersey Shore’ cast member?”

We've got a SITUATION!"

Thank you, Drew, for taking the time to answer these in depth, probing questions. (I can’t believe you actually watch Jersey Shore!) We certainly hope that you stick around and keep on bringing in buddies to take up this great sport! We’ll be seeing you in the courts!

Monday, January 10, 2011


It was, in all truthfulness, rather ugly. The Birmingham Athletic Club (BAC) did exactly what they promised to do – send in a formidable team in order to stop the pounding we have been handing them for the past 4 years of the Farris Cup competition. And giving us a taste of our own medicine, they didn’t let up all day.

Things were actually looking up for the DAC after the first result came in. Brien Baker had full control over his opponent and took a 3-0 win in fairly comfortable fashion. However, that was the only time we had the lead. After that, we didn’t just fall behind, we stumbled, smacked our heads, wondered around dazed and confused, ran backwards, before we knew what hit us. [Picture: Brien Baker (right) with Larry MacKenzie]

The next 6 results had on the losing end of every one of them. Four of them were 3-0 and weren’t all that close. Given, our players did not have the best day on court, but full credit goes to their opponents who took maximum advantage of every opportunity that came their way. And once they were 2-0 up, they really put down the hammer and refused to give any of us any hope of a sniff or comeback. The other 2 matches we lost in the 5th game. And on both of those occasions, we were 2-0 up. Fitness (or lack of it) was a major contributor here. If you are unable to physically last a 5 game match, then your opponent only has to win 2 games to beat you. It is easy to relax once you establish a good lead, but it is just as easy to lose the momentum you had that got you into that position in the first place. Being 2-0 up is actually the time to pick up your game, not rest.

Ironically, our second victory of the day came in identical fashion. John Rakolta just happened to play against his Farris Cup opponent – Terry Barr – in the travel league just 2 days before. In that match he was 2-0 down, then came back to win in 5 once Terry ran out of gas and could no longer keep pace. Two days later and Terry must have felt like he was experiencing ‘Groundhog Day’. John once again found himself 2-0 down. And once again, exhaustion got the better of Terry who looked like he was struggling to stand up straight, let alone run down any shots. John rolled off the next 3 games taking the 5th 9-1.

And let’s not forget about the doubles matches. The DAC have always had issues competing with the BAC on the doubles court. This year was no different. We lost all three of the match-ups, winning only two games total.

We managed to pull out 2 of the last 4 singles matches on the day with strong 3-0 performances by John Birgbauer and Jeff Gembis. However, when it was all said and done, we had lost the Cup 4 matches to 11. A genuine pasting. Congratulations to the BAC, they truly deserved the victory. [Picture: Jeff Gembis (right) with Chad Keesling]

Now, I know I have sounded a little negative here, but this should serve as motivation for our members when we go to the BAC next year and win on their turf. After all, in the spirit of good sportsmanship, we are technically only loaning them the Cup for 12 months. If we keep on thrashing them year after year, they won’t want to play with us after a while, right? But in all seriousness, to truly compete to the level we need to, it is imperative that you get tournament experience. Play people you are not used to playing in venues you aren’t used to playing in. Such variety goes a long, long way.

Friday, January 7, 2011


“The Pros are coming! The Pros are coming!” For those of you who need inspiration, or tips on how to play ‘real’ squash, or are simply curious, the Motor City Open hosted by the Birmingham Athletic Club will be running from January 26 to the 31st. This first class professional squash tournament will feature some of the world’s best players fighting over ranking points and a total purse of $50,000.

The seeding for this event was taken from the December rankings despite it being played in January. So, even though world number 12, Dutchman LJ Anjema, is this year’s top seeded player, two higher ranked players are seeded 2 and 3. They are, Egyptian Mohammed El Shorbagy ranked 9 (who turns 20 next week) and Aussie Cameron Pilley ranked 11. I’m not too sure it even matters. All of the 11 players that went straight into the main draw are ranked inside the top 30. They are all good. Very good.

And so are the qualifiers. Fourteen of the sixteen are ranked between 31 and 62. The other two are American – Chris Gordon ranked 72 and Graham Bassett ranked 190. Chris and Graham received ‘local’ spots to get into the draw.

I decided not to play this year. The BAC was very generous in offering me ‘local’ spot into the qualifying, but without the necessary training and match practice required there is no way I would be able last more than half a game. Even with the necessary preparation required, with the quality of field that will be turning up, anything other than a 3-0 spanking would be a miracle. BAC squash pro Julian Wellings has the ‘wild card’ for the event which means he has a free ticket into the main draw. He will be playing one of the qualifiers in the first round.

This is a golden opportunity. Being able to watch a world class squash match is a rarity in Detroit. I encourage you to make the effort and buy a ticket: go and get inspired. You need to contact Julian for all prices and availability if you would like to experience these incredible athletes in person. E-mail him at or call (248) 646-5050.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Boasters League Round 1~~

I was hoping for a more active beginning to the second half, but maybe people were still in ‘Holiday Mode’. It almost seemed as if players were more interested in collecting their bonus point and getting their customary beer, rather than actually playing the match. While, yes, the bonus is important, believe it or not, so is playing!

Still, 14 matches were completed on the night with another 6 matches that were played early. Except for “Delta Force” who had the bye, the matches were pretty evenly spread across the teams. After one week, it is next to impossible to make any predictions, so all I can say is make sure you turn up on Wednesday and make sure you play your matches. The current standings probably mean little for now, but it is easier not to play catch-up and have to scramble during the final couple of weeks. Remember, the last three teams will be eliminated for the play-offs, so don’t get lazy!

A number of yesterday’s matches were close. Al Iafrate (“Speed Ballers”) surprised me (I have to admit) with an excellent victory over Andy Adamo (“Threepeat”) 2-1; Bob Rogers (“Winky-Dinks”) who moved up to #3, lost 2-1 to Jay Poplawski (“Mongoose”); two new faces in the league squared off with Sante Fratarcangeli (“Threepeat”) beating Jason Massey (“Speed Ballers”) 2-1. I can’t mention all the 2-1 results of course, but there were also some tight matches played even though the score line was 3-0. I watched Julie Henry (“The Underdogs”) battle Tom Bergh (“Mr. Daniels Walking”) and while Tom won all three games, the points were close and both players were puffing hard. The photo is from their match.

Next week, round 2 on January 12 is also the Second Dividend night. If you plan on attending it, then make sure you get your match in early. Either way, come on down and enjoy the free eats and drinks! That’s motivation enough, surely!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Did you make a New Year’s Resolution for 2011? I guess most of us have something that we vow to work on, a bad habit we promise to break, a character defect we endeavor to improve, some weakness we strive to strengthen… Well, hopefully you’ll have more luck sticking to it than The Squash Poet...

The New Year turned I set my sights
Of reaching the stratosphere of squash world heights
Up through the ranks my meteoritic rise
Will turn all heads and boggle all eyes
Nothing would stop me from my ambition
Of blasting away all competition
So watch out for me and before you know it
You’ll be paying to watch the illustrious “Squash Poet”!

The Squash Poet

Resolution Evolution

Starting on January 1, I vow…
To never put myself through the terror
Of continuously hitting unforced errors
No more hitting out and no more hitting tin
Every time I make contact, the ball will be in
When I’m game ball up, I will not choke
By hitting back to myself giving away the stroke
I won’t whiff or carry or hit the ball twice,
And I promise to heed my squash pro’s advice.

Starting on January 1, I vow…
To practice and practice and practice some more
And learn how to ref and learn how to score
I’ll watch Ramy Ashour and copy his skill
Just swing my racquet and hit the nick at will
I’ll work on my fitness and pump all the weights
Be known as the squash player that just dominates
Never will I succumb to the pain of defeat
As I turn myself into a mega-athlete!

Starting on January 1, I vow…
To discipline myself of body and of mind
So I could still win even if I was blind
Become so focused with resolute concentration
Execute each stroke with perfect calculation
Crowds will go wild from the magic I’ll weave
I’ll rewrite the record books with what I’ll achieve
2010 will disappear without sorrow
As my quest to conquer the squash world starts tomorrow!

Starting on January 3, I vow…
To stop being so ignorant, was the Hell was I thinking?
I wasn’t told do to this, I would have to stop drinking!
And it’s not like playing squash will make you that famous
Especially with my mental restraint of a fat ignoramus
Apart from the fact my technique is so dire
And I’m way past the time when I should have retired
I guess in 2011 I won’t break any frontiers
But I’ll be sure to take it seriously at the start of next year!

Happy New Year!

The Squash Poet

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