Thursday, July 28, 2011


Even though all the matches weren’t played at their scheduled time, at least the result came down to the final contest which kept it exciting. And, thankfully, bonus points were not the deciding factor. They did keep the “Court Jesters” in the hunt because without them the last match would have been irrelevant.

Sure to Shank Redemption” only collected 2 bonus points on the night (2 less than their opponents) and by the time the next morning came around were trailing by – you guessed it – 2 points. Mike McCuish once again was kind enough to sub in for the ill Tom Healy (“Sure to Shank Redemption”) and once again he stepped up to the task by beating Andrew Spohn 2-1. Blake Ellis had a strong performance against Tom Lott taking all 3 games but that result was nullified when Ted Morris lost all 3 games to Jeff Jardine. Adding on a 2-1 win to Mike Ng (“Court Jesters”) who played that match a few days early, and after four matches, the bonus points were the difference.

However, the next two days bought better fortunes for “Sure to Shank Redemption”. Steve Murphy put them one point closer after taking care of Jim Kelly 2-1, and after Arnaud Mangin was awarded a 3-0 forfeit, they suddenly found themselves 2 points ahead. It came down to the final match.

Patrick Petz versus Sean Fossee. Most of the pressure was on Patrick – he had to win 3-0 if the “Court Jesters” were to take the title. These two played each other back in round 7 (only two weeks earlier) and Sean won that battle 2-1, so presumably he had the mental edge. And it’s funny how history repeats itself. Once again, Sean took the match 2-1 and with it making “Sure to Shank Redemption” the Summer League champions of 2011!

Winning players: Blake Ellis, Sean Fossee, Arnaud Mangin, Andy Housey, Tom Healy, Ted Morris, Steve Murphy. Congrats fellas!

So that’s it for leagues for a while. The fall Boasters League starts on the first week of October, but registration begins in August. Make sure you put your name down early if you intend to play. Otherwise, play your box ladder matches, and start to get yourself squash ready for the 2011-2012 season. Now is the best time…

Saturday, July 23, 2011


“The Incredi-Balls” is my take on any international squash story that I find… well, incredible. Either in a good way, or a bad way, they will be general interest stories that have peaked my own curiosity and hopefully yours as well. This first article is about the Pakistan Squash Federation and the complete botch job in regards to visas and with their world junior team…

The world of squash is relatively small. Everybody is frantically trying to push the sport into the spotlight, not just in America but all over the world. It needs positive publicity, especially since the world associations will not let go of the dream to join the Olympic fraternity and gain a status of professionalism along with respect from its sporting peers, something it bellows from its own pedestal as a no-brainer.

However, squash continues to not just to shoot itself in the foot, but chop their entire legs clean off when ‘blunders’ like this one crop up. Recently the Junior World Championships were completed in Belgium (July 13-17). The winner was a young fellow from Egypt named Marwan El Shorbagy. The ‘El Shorbagy’ name may be familiar to you – his brother, Mohammed, won the World Junior Championships in 2008 and 2009 and is currently number 9 in the world. Normally, with a story like this, all the attention of this tournament should be geared towards the winner, but alas, his triumphant moment has been somewhat diluted as most of the headlines have been about who did not play.

We all know about Pakistan and the rich history that country has with the sport of squash. Hashim Khan, Jahangir Khan, Jansher Khan: players synonymous with unarguably legendary status. There was a time when nobody would question who would win a tournament; it was more a matter of who they would beat in the final. Now, Pakistani squash is floundering in its own ineptitude. The highest ranked Pakistani in the world is ranked 28, with only one other player in the top 100. That’s as many as India, Denmark, Hong Kong, Finland and Italy. Not exactly power-house squash nations.

I am sure there are multiple reasons for the demise of Pakistani squash. I would only be speculating if I gave any, but I have read about corruption within the associations for starters. That aside, their recent escapade is inexcusable.

The world junior Pakistani squash team looked formidable this year. Two of their players were seeded 3 and 4 respectively with a real chance of taking the title. A very exciting time for the players no doubt, as they had the chance to claim a world junior title for their country for the first time since Jansher Khan did it in 1986 – yes, twenty-five years ago.

But Pakistani players need visas to go to Belgium. And it is the responsibility of the PSF (Pakistan Squash Federation) to make sure they get them. You would think it would be a relatively straight forward process to file the paperwork. It isn’t as if they haven’t had to do this before. Nevertheless, in the most important event of the year for these players who had been training extremely hard, the PSF dropped the ball. The visas were denied, the players could not get to Belgium, and they were forced to withdraw from the tournament. Now, the blame game has started, and soon people will be getting sore fingers from pointing so much.

According to the WSF (World Squash Federation) who run the World Junior Championships, the visa applications were applied for too late. The passports of the players were received by the Belgium embassy the day after the team was supposed to arrive in the country. According to the PSF, it was the WSF who delayed in getting the PSF the correct paperwork in the first place in order to send to the Belgium embassy. On top of that, the PSF is screaming, “Conspiracy!” Throwing nuclear fuel on the fire, the PSF secretary - the person responsible for his player’s visas - suggests that the WSF purposely delayed the paperwork because their president is Indian. (My question would be why didn’t the PSF follow up on their request for the paperwork from the WSF in a sensible manner if time was getting tight?)

Whatever comes of the investigation into all these allegations is – in my humble opinion – irrelevant. A couple of heads will probably roll, and then again, they may not. Who really is to blame for this debacle is secondary. I feel terribly for the Pakistani junior players. The event is done; they are victims of unbelievable incompetence. Looking on the bright side, under the category of “all is not lost”, at least the two players who were supposed to be seeded 3rd and 4th this year are young enough to compete in next year’s event… if they can get out of their own country first.

Remarkably, this has happened before. Visa denials for Pakistani players have also occurred in Canada and the US. The events of 9/11 have unquestionably made it more difficult for players from Pakistan to acquire visas. It is a problem that the PSF, WSF and PSA (Professional Squash Association) should be more aggressive in addressing. It has been almost 10 years since that dreaded attack and they still can’t seem to get it right. Why isn’t an efficient system in place? Having Pakistan as a competitive squash nation again can only be good for the sport.

So, while the squash associations stamp their feet, bang their fists, and refuse to eat their greens unless squash is accepted into the Olympic embrace, the IOC have probably been keeping a frowned sneering look at this latest fiasco. After all, if we can’t even get the juniors in order, how are we expected to look after the adults? In order to claim to be a professional outfit, you should probably act like one.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Scheduled for Thursday, August 11. Start time: 5.00pm

One of the most important qualities to have in squash is patience. Know when to attack, know when to defend, be prepared to have long, extended rallies and wait for the opportunities. So what better way can I think of messing up all what I preach by taking that luxury away from you!

Try out this new tournament format – “Race Against The Clock”. Very simply, your matches will only be minutes long. Your task is to accumulate as many points as possible within the time limit. It’s balls-to-the-wall, flat-out, take-no-prisoners, use-whatever-cliché-you-want, squash. Whether the event will be a knock-out or round robin will depend on the amount of entries received. As will the length of the matches. They may be anywhere between 3 and 10 minutes. I may even change the length of the matches as the tournament rolls along. Handicaps may also be assigned. As usual, though, you can be sure that a keg will be on hand. Prizes will be awarded for the top two place getters.

Being the summer months, I am aware that many of you have not been working out as much as you should, so this format will even out the fitness levels. It would be a fun way to hop on court knowing that you won’t be regurgitating your lungs… or will you?

Take note however, if you happen to be on the losing end of your first couple of matches that may be it for the day. This event is not designed so everybody will get that super work-out renowned with the sport. You will however – no matter how well your matches go – get a super beer work-out!

Registration deadline is Monday, August 8. Minimum 15 entries.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Summer League semi finals~~

At least most of the matches were played. The fact that most of them were not played during the scheduled times is a little frustrating, but I can’t complain too much. I mentioned last week that I hoped the winners weren’t going to be decided by bonus points and thankfully that’s how it turned out, but it was a case of ‘careful what you wish for’! It is, of course, difficult to collect bonus points when just about nobody turns up.

Out of the 14 players scheduled to play between the top seeded “Serves of Steel” and “Sure to Shank Redemption”, only 2 of them received their bonus point. And they were from the same team. Only 1 match was played on the night, but the player representing “Sure to Shank Redemption” was a substitute and they are not entitled to bonus points. So, incredibly, for a semi final, not one player from “Sure to Shank Redemption” was present. Ummmm… I was rather dumbfounded to say the least. Also, implausibly, they won. Their sub, Mike McCuish (who stepped in for the injured Tom Healy), managed to fend off the wily Drew Creamer for a 3-0 win with every game ending up 15-14 or 15-13. From four of the five other matches played, they won two of them 3-0 and lost two 2-1, and by the time the final match started, “Sure to Shank Redemption” had an unassailable lead. They won that last match anyway and get through 13-7

The other semi final was a lot tighter. Both teams collected 4 bonus points each, negating each other out. And the first four results came in all with the score line 2-1. The “Court Jesters” had won three of those contests, with the “Volleybrawlers” lone success coming at the hands of Andy Adamo who, after losing the first game to Patrick Petz, squeaked past him in games 2 and 3 with lengthy comebacks by capitalizing on his superior fitness. The video below is the second half of their first game.

With two matches not being played, the 5th result would decide who would advance. It was looking gloomy for the “Volleybrawlers” since they were 2 points behind, needed a 3-0 win, and to make matters worse had to rely on a sub (Brian Schrage) to do it. On the other hand, the “Court Jesters” needed only one game from Andrew Spohn, but he is just coming back from a lengthy injury. The three games were close. Unfortunately for the “Volleybrawlers” Brian didn’t win any of them. “Court Jesters” advance 14-9.

The final is set for next Monday, July 25. The two teams played each other in the final round of the season with “Sure to Shank Redemption” taking the honors by two points. It would be nice if most of the matches were played that evening… pretty pleeeeeze?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Summer League round 7~~

Firstly, well done to the top 3 teams in the standings. From round 3 onwards “Serves of Steel”, the “Court Jesters”, and the “Volleybrawlers” did not relinquish those positions. That’s a tough thing to do in the summer where playing consistently is the biggest challenge most players face. The fourth and last play-off spot was really the one that was up for grabs. The next three teams – “Sure to Shank Redemption”, “The Balled and the Beautiful” and “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” – had the best chance to capture it, but neither of them really took command. It wasn’t as if they all piled on points in the last couple of weeks to make a statement, but it was more ‘business as usual’ as they ambled along. Consequently, it stayed a tight race and once again it was the bonus points that made the difference.

Sure to Shank Redemption” and “The Balled and the Beautiful” both ended up fourth with 74 points. However, since “Sure to Shank Redemption” collected 3 more bonus points, they will be moving ahead. One again, the team looking from the outside in must be left wondering how they possibly could not have picked up one more point somewhere along the line. If they really want to see where they let themselves down, they only need to look at round 5 – they only played 1 match.

The video you see is the first half of the second game between Bruce VandeVusse (“We Got The Runs”) and James Van Dyke (“Hit Me With Your Best Shot”). James has improved markedly over the past 8 months but on this day he could not get the better of Bruce who beat him 2-1.

As usual, I like to go through all the results of the season and pull some interesting statistics:
• 56 players were in the league this year. That’s down from 64 last year, and down from the all-time high of 72 back in 2007.
• 64% of matches were played this year. Even though it may not seem like it, that’s only 3% down on last year. It certainly felt less attended.
• In three of the rounds, “We Got the Runs” picked up more points by turning up than winning games. They finished second last, but had the most bonus points in the league which made up 47% of their overall total. They only won 31% of the matches they did play. The lowest by a long way.
• One player from the “Alcoballics” made up 37% of their team’s total. They finished last. They only collected a total of 13 bonus points for the season, averaging less than 2 a week. With 29% of their season total coming from round 1, they averaged just over 6 points per week thereafter.
• Keeping on the “Alcoballics”, even though they played the least amount of matches with 59%, their winning percentage was the highest with 70%. That’s 7% higher than the next best team. Imagine if they played more often!!
• Three players from “The Balled and the Beautiful” made up for 78% of the team’s total.
• In round 3, not one player from “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” versus “Alcoballics” turned up. I believe that’s a first.
• Each team match-up consisted of 7 matches. All 7 matches from one round were completed only once.
• Only one player in the entire league picked up all 7 bonus points – Jim Kelly (“Court Jesters”)
• Seven players played all 7 matches. None of them went through undefeated.
Manny Tancer (“The Balled and the Beautiful”) and Jeff Jardine (“We Got the Runs”) collected the most overall points with 23. Doug Troszak (“Hit Me With Your Best Shot”) and Steve Murphy (“Sure to Shank Redemption”) both accumulated 22. Only Steve's team advanced to the play-offs.

The semi-finals – on paper at least, and if everybody plays – looks like it should be close. During the season, “Serves of Steel” beat “Sure to Shank Redemption” by 1 point, and the “Court Jesters” and “Volleybrawlers” actually tied back in round 1 (although the “Court Jesters” had more bonus points). Hopefully, it won’t be decided on the dreaded bonus point but rather on the court… we’ll see!

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Monday, July 4. Independence Day in the US, a chance to slouch on the couch, grab the remote, whip open a can of wobbly pop, and watch America’s favorite pastime on the idiot box. Nothing like watching professional athletes do what they do best. The buzz of competition, the exhilaration of the unknown, the rivalries, rooting for your heroes and vilifying the enemy. No, I am not talking about the baseball – I am talking about the Hot-Dog Eating contest!

Yes! Prime time television. Nothing beats watching Joey Chestnut thrust 62 hot-dogs down his gullet in 10 minutes with morsels flying in every direction, all over his face, cheeks bulging to the point of breakage while holding in the urge to vomit, in front of hundreds of screaming fans that no doubt have the same impulse. There was also a women’s event this year. Nothing sexier than a broad eating like a wood chipper. Yummy. [Photo: Sonya Thomas who won the women's Hot-Dog eating contest with 42 of them. Talk about a dream date... "honey, there's a spot on your chin..."]

This was on ESPN. America’s leading sports network. So eating is a sport? Chestnut – a professional eater - earned $10,000 for his engorgement effort and no doubt a few endorsement deals. I wonder what companies would hire him? Who makes those gag-bags on airplanes? Anyway, it got me thinking of what other non-sports I have seen on ESPN. Here is a short list:

• Lumberjack. Chopping wood? Climbing a tree? Running on a log on the water? So now a job is a sport too? Maybe we should try professional mining. Coal shoveling…? Mine-shaft-collapse-dash-for-freedom..?
• Electronic darts. Not even real darts – which isn’t a sport either. I remember playing electronic darts in pubs in Germany. It was only fun after a few Hefeweizens.
• Spelling Bee. We all know about this one, but seriously? Watching young teens spell words none of us have ever heard of or know their meaning. Why can’t they spell helpful stuff? Like… rhythm, or is it rythym, or rhythym? Anyway, what’s next here? Cursive writing? Long division?
• Scrabble. Nothing like seeing someone use ‘z’, ‘x’, and ‘q’ in the same 7 letter word… with triple score!! Shoot me now.
• Poker. Watching shady characters with real gambling issues. Awesome. I’ve also seen “Intervention” on channel 36 where they try to stop these shady characters from doing exactly this.
• And here are some honorable mentions: Cheerleading; Bowling (sorry, Tom!) They recently set up lanes in the middle of Cowboy Stadium in Dallas; Fishing; Skateboarding; Pool

So what’s next? Pie-baking? Women’s reverse parking (sorry ladies!)? Garden-weeding? (I’d be competitive in that!)

While I would give anything to watch a professional squash match on television, I am fully aware the sport is a long way from mainstream media – if it ever gets there at all. For a sport that is one of the most physically demanding on the planet, boasts to have the fittest athletes on the planet and has been deemed to be the healthiest to play on the planet (by Forbes magazine), television coverage is virtually non-existent. But why? Is it because watching Battle-Axe Nelson slice a log with a chainsaw in 10 seconds is actually incredibly stimulating and I’m way off base? I encourage each and every one of you to go to You Tube and search “best professional squash rallies”. There is some insane stuff on there. The glass court and white ball contrast make viewing very easy especially now that most of us have HD televisions at home.

The largest hurdle is this country is simply the unfamiliarity of the sport. Squash is not exactly well-known in the States. It is still normal for me to have to explain what squash is when asked what I do for a living. But it is an elitist sport here. The people who play have deep pockets. And money talks. However, the viewing public also has to be able to relate. Television ratings talk as well and the two are intrinsically intertwined. Higher ratings equal more money. I find golf insufferably boring to watch, but can understand why it gets televised. Yes, money and sponsorship have a lot to do with it, but the average American can associate themselves with the players as most have swung a club before. Same with the Hot-Dog eating contest. We’ve all eaten them. We all know pummeling one every 10 seconds down your esophagus is unadulterated stupidity, so we are glued to watching the nut-cases that do it. There’s a personal connection – so we watch. With squash, there simply isn’t. You could pour all the money in the world into the game, but unless the average Joe can identify himself with the sport, it won’t get on the air.

The answer? I’m open to suggestions. In fact, if you have a decent solution, I would pass it on to the professional squash associations as they can’t seem to solve it either. Squash – in America – needs accessibility. Massive amounts of it. Making it available and affordable so you don’t have to join a private club or attend a prestigious college to have access to courts is a start. Nonetheless, as much as I would love it to be, I am not convinced that even if squash reaches wide-spread audiences that it will achieve a main-stream, prime-time status. And while I ponder this, I wonder if that is even necessary?

The best way to watch professional squash (apart from attending the events in person) is on the internet. Some major events are streamed live, but are pay-per-view. The rare event is free. While the live-streaming service has improved over time, not all events are covered and the service is still a little unreliable. They don’t make it easy - yet. Technology will only develop and it hopefully won’t be long before you can watch Ramy Ashour versus Nick Matthew on your iPhone with a squash app. After all, just about all of us are “connected” to cyber space by some portable gadget that doesn’t leave our side. If that truly becomes the case, then does squash even need television? It’s something to chew on (rather than on hot-dogs!). I won’t then be stuck watching Dexter McGeek spell “q-u-i-z-z-e-r” for a triple point score in scrabble.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Creatures of the Squash Universe

Life is a never ending evolving entity. New species are being discovered every day. Creatures that are stranger than fiction, their reason for existence one of the mysteries of the universe. Some of these genuses have found their way to the squash courts where their modus operandi is anything but orthodox. After conducting intricate and insightful examinations over the course of my 30 plus year career, the following is a short cross section of my extensive discoveries.

Confusus Identium
Born one way, but has the unparalleled desire to be something else. These intriguing beasts start of life as a pure tennis player or racquetball player or handballer, but are mesmerized and drawn into the world of squash. Many cross over completely to the sport and are never seen again by their original family. Some manage to travel between the worlds but there is no mistaking where their true loyalties lie. They are easily identified as although their hearts are 100% squash, their techniques do not make that same transition and are frequently spotted staring at the front wall during a rally. The transition is rarely seen in the other direction.

Letcallum Perpetuum
Similar to the human condition of “teretts syndrome”, Letcallum Perpetuum cannot help itself but to ask for a ‘let’ at every single opportunity even when interference is non-existent. It is a tactic used to infuriate their prey and as an added defense mechanism, they are not only naturally stubborn, they are also exceedingly well versed in the art form of arguing. With a inherent metabolism to outlast most opponents, long matches are very common. Their major weakness is they do not camouflage themselves well and can be heard before you see them.

Hitballus Standstillum
A peculiar being, Hitballus Standstillum generally has no problem running and moving around the squash court. But in certain situations it has the uncanny ability to freeze and stand completely still after contact forcing their enemy to either run around them and exert energy unnecessarily, or to run into them directly. This, however, is not a good idea, since their secret weapon is that they appear to be able to turn to stone and running into them can cause significant damage to the uninitiated. Nature’s shows it’s full fury when Hitballus Standstillum comes into contact with Letcallum Perpetuum. The two are natural enemies and although the winners of these confrontations vary, the aftermath is always ugly.

Warmupum Champitus
With a bark much, much, worse than its bite, this life form has no actual defense mechanisms so it attempts to scare away their foe before the fight really begins. Frequently seen outside the arena well before schedule to begin a long and rigorous stretching and warm-up ritual, its main aim is to project the atmosphere of supreme fitness and talent. The on-court pre-match warm-up is just as intense as Warmupum Champitus will crack the ball around like world number one, slotting nicks, executing trick shots, and leaping around like they have too much energy and can waste it. However, once the match starts it becomes immediately apparent that they have no idea whatsoever how to play. Their stubbornness in accepting this fact is the only reason these sorry animals haven’t gone instinct. Like weeds, they just keep coming back.

Procrastinatus ad Infinitum
No matter how far in advance you arrange, what day of the week it is, what time in the day it is, and how often you remind them, Procrastinatus ad Infinitum is guaranteed one hundred percent to be late. A wily character, it actually prefers its rivals to spend more and more time organizing and making sure they turn up on time so the level of annoyance increases exponentially when Procrastinatus ad Infinitum keeps them waiting. To make matters worse, this infuriating entity will employ similar tactics between games as well by taking phone calls, going to the restroom, changing out gear, talking with passersby, anything to turn the 90 second between games to as long as possible. Identification is rather simple as this is the one holding the squash racquet outside the court.

Ricochet Pinballii
A truly intriguing critter. With an almost insatiable appetite to hurt itself, Ricochet Pinballii flings itself around the court absent of any conscious thought over its own personal safety. It has mastered the skill of sprinting at break-neck speeds to retrieve any ball but is unfortunately utterly clueless of how to stop without using the solid walls as a mattress. Rumor has it they are invertebrates, and some scientists even suggest they are trying to mimic the characteristics of the squash ball itself. Curiously, though, they do not take too kindly when one whacks them with the racquet. They are generally considered to be pesky little buggers amongst its adversaries as they keep on getting the ball back and don’t tire very easily.

The study is not complete. I will add the rest of the list at a later date. Up until then, I will be lurking in the dark recesses of squash centers all around the galaxy, gathering and analyzing all the strange information, uncovering new and bizarre species and putting my life on the line in the name of science!

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