Monday, September 19, 2016


Cross Border Challenge September 17, 2016

USA!! USA!! USA!! Kevin Prather!!
Ahhh, patriotism. Nothing like displaying your countries colors with hideous fashion statements. Screaming “I love America” through Stars and Stripes exhibitionistic ensembles is what makes this country awfully strange wonderful. It’s becoming more of the attraction with the Cross Border Challenge, this, the 19th meeting against Windsor since its inception in 2005.

The first major squash competition for the season almost reached record numbers. Windsor are the current title holders, and visit the DAC in force every time we host. I’m sure it’s the keg passion of competition that draws them over the river, and they would need every ounce of that passion if they were to keep the coveted broken racquet trophy.

The event kicked off at 2pm sharp. Eleven of the twelve players were promptly swapping cross-courts in their warm-up routines. John Birgbauer, however, was applying the mind-games tactic, as he completely forgot kept his doubles opponents waiting, making a dramatic late entrance. Either it upset the preparation of the Windsor team, or it gave them a few more minutes to drink another beer, the strategy worked beautifully. Together with Peter Logan, they dispatched their rivals 3-0, timing the last rally perfectly as they walked off the court exactly at 3pm, keeping my schedule as my German wife would be proud - precisely on time.
Dave Guthrie, Peter Logan, Kevin Furmanek, John Birgbauer

The DAC had a couple more bagels to hand out for the first round of matches. Tom MacEachern did well to keep Steve Allen off the score board. Long rallies were plentiful, which really benefited Steve more than it did Tom, but Tom had the better ability to put the ball away. The third game went to extras, and Tom was starting to feel the effects. At match-ball, he went for a very risky never-in-doubt drop from the back of the service box that caught Steve a little flat-footed. Tom was happy not to have to hop back on court for a fourth!

Continuing the DAC charge early was Matt DiDio and Ted Morris, recording 3-0 and 3-1 wins respectively. Windsor managed to etch a win on their side of the score board with Dave Porter taking down our own John Mann 3-1. It was a healthy start to the event for the DAC, but there were still plenty of matches to be completed. I was starting to hear the ‘excuses’ from the Windsor team that they had not been playing much over the summer months and the rust was still being brushed off. Unlike the dedicated DAC players, that clearly trained 7 days a week… practicing their golf technique and swing.

Matt Maceachern, Sante "Rocky" Fratarcangeli
The second round of matches mimicked the first. Four wins and one loss. One of the best matches of the day, Sante Fratarcangeli harnessed his inner-Rocky - spurred along no doubt by his Balboa shorts (if you talk the talk, you better walk the walk, right?) coming back from 2-1 down against Matt Maceachern. Having to deal with a broken toe as well, Sante battled back tenaciously. If he was hurting with his movement, he wasn’t letting on very well. The long, running rallies went back and forth, both players were attempting to use all four corners. We have seen Sante in these situations many times and he seems to be able to pull himself over the finish line first more times than not. Today was one of those days as well, his 11-9 in the 5th victory was a gutsy result. Adrian Liz would be proud.

At this point we were 8 matches to 2 up. Windsor would need to step it up to have any chance of maintaining custody of the trophy. They did so for round 3, picking up 3 of the 5 results. The closest one being the doubles match. Shail Arora and Justin Winkelman had a formidable task against Steve DeMarco and Mike Obremic. I didn’t see much of this one, but from what I witnessed I thought our lads would struggle. They did - but in a good way. They stepped up to the assignment, pushing the Windsor team to the edge. Coming back from a 2-1 game deficit and also deep down in the fourth, Justin and Shail, desperate for more beer squash, extended the match to an unlikely fifth. Unfortunately, they couldn’t pull it out but they should be happy with their gallant performance.

The DAC was close to the finish line. We only needed 3 more victories to secure the prize. And, we did it in style. Dave Devine relied on his ultimate fitness experience to come back from the brink. He was 2-0 down before he figured out his opponent, Jeff Derochie, and subsequently rolled off the next three games. Or maybe his pink shirt eventually blinded the guy…? Either way, it inched the DAC ever closer.

After new member Steve Brown secured his 3-1 win, illustrating some silky skilled hands, we only needed one more. In the Houdini act of the day, Derek Aguirre provided it. Playing Dave Guthrie, the two displayed some pretty squash and also some not so pretty squash. UnFortunately for them, no one gets points for looking pretty (otherwise our DAC ranking would look vastly different). At 2-1 down, Derek needed all the help he could muster to keep himself in the match. As the fourth game came to a close, it looked as if neither player really wanted to win. Points were decided on mistakes and Derek with an 11-10 lead, eventually won the game on a stroke. He did save a match ball in the process though. The 5th game was eerily similar. Dave reached 10 first and Derek had to survive 4 more match-balls to take it to the tie-break. It was a little messy, but exciting to watch when it comes down to the wire. As fate would have it, Derek only needed 1 match ball to convert the win. 12-10 in the 5th!

The trophy was ours! But we still had matches to complete. The intensity did not let up either. Another nail-biter result, Peter Logan tackled the burly, hard hitting, Kevin Furmanek. Some great squash was showcased here, Peter was very effective with his short angles from the back of the court, using his experience wisely, and Kevin would counter with his powerful, quick length. Once again the DAC player was having to comeback from a 2-1 game deficit. Peter appeared to have some momentum going into the 5th after solid 4th, but Kevin had other ideas. It was neck and neck most of the way, Kevin though had one slamming length too many, not even a desperation slip dive from Peter could reach it, and took the match 11-9 in the 5th. Capping off the day was Vikram Chopra taking on the strong-willed Paul Gebreal. Finishing the competition and we had started it, Vikram was simply too steady for Paul and could handle his power with relative ease. The DAC won the match 3-0, and we had succeeded in our quest for the Cross Border Trophy with a 16-8 overall victory!
Cross Border Players!

In an even more stunning result, the keg was completely destroyed in 3 and half hours. After all these years, I really shouldn’t expect anything less - right Double D?

Thursday, September 8, 2016


2016 Summer League

I have to admit, I was rather chuffed at how the Summer League turned out this year. With necessity being the mother of invention, I was forced to change the format of the league last year because of the court area renovation, and even though I was skeptical it would work, it actually turned out to be noticeably more successful the team versus team arrangement we are all familiar with.

There were a few major differences. Firstly, the players would still be grouped into teams, however, the players of each team were all of a similar level. So, for example, Team 1 were all ‘A’ players, Team 2 were all ‘B’ players, and so forth. The task of each team was to play as many matches amongst themselves through the season. Teams received 1 point for each completed match, and players could play the same opponent as often as they wished – each result was counted. The players on the team with the most matches completed would receive a prize.

Secondly, on an individual basis, the players on each team were also playing against each other. Points were awarded based on each result, so each team had an internal ranking. Obviously the more matches one played, the more points one could accumulate. The player on each team with the most points would receive a prize.

All matches were self-schedule so the flexibility was helpful too. No longer did the players have the pressure of ‘make-up’ matches from the previous week. Either you played a lot, or you didn’t. Teams took the luxury of organizing mini-round-robins on some days and could knock-out many matches at once. It’s the stats that always tell the tale, so check these out:

  • We had 100 players in the league. That beat the previous summer league record of 90 set in 2014. 
  • Overall, there were 443 matches completed. Amazing. That worked out to be an average of 27.6 matches per week. (Total of 16 weeks.)
  • The winning team - Team 7 - completed 97 matches. Also amazing. 
  • Team 5 played the least amount of matches with just 8. Not so amazing.
  • Three of the teams made up 58% of the total matches. 
  • Only 2 of the teams had all 10 players complete a match. 
  • 11 players did not play any matches. That is especially disappointing considering there were 4 people who couldn’t get in because it was full. 
  • David Zack (Team 7) played the most matches – 43. 
  • Ryan MacVoy (Team 4) scored more points than any other player in the league – 164 
  • The 2 players who played each other most often were the MacVoy brothers. Ryan and Zac played each other 14 times. Ryan won 11 of them. Only three of the 14 results were 3-0, so it was clearly competitive.

Congratulations to this year’s winners: 

1.      Winning Team 7: Jim Fair, Jason Trombley, John Stelter, David Zack, Han Peng, Glen Milligan, Ted Mabley, Julie Vande Vusse, Gus Ploss, Pat Hughes.

2.      Winning Players: Team 1 – JC Tibbitts; 2 – James Van Dyke; 3 – Jerry Rock; 4 – Ryan MacVoy; 5 – Mike Cooney; 6 – Eric Scheible; 7 – Julie Vande Vusse; 8 – Howard Kaplan; 9 – Matthew Turnbull; 10 – Shaun Dillon

This should encourage more participation next summer. The format works, you can play as often as you please, and the incentive is there to play for yourself as well as your team. Plus, it’s a great way to keep in match shape. Otherwise, we’ll see you this fall and winter jam the courts up like never before!

Friday, September 2, 2016


Should squash even bother anymore? As the torch was snuffed out in Brazil after the 31st Olympiad, I was irritably content to see it was over. Anybody who knows anything about squash finds it annoyingly difficult to fathom why squash fails time and time again to be a part of the Games. Convincing the IOC is like arguing with an intractably pigheaded child that swears water isn’t wet even though he’s moments away from drowning.

I watched the Olympics on and off for its duration, I tried not to be overly interested and for much of the coverage I wasn’t. ‘Forced’ to watch sports I would normally never consider viewing such as archery, mountain biking, fencing just to name a few, if I lasted more than 3 minutes before I found myself reaching for the remote control, it was because it probably put me to sleep.

But alas, at times, I was magnetically drawn at the immensity of the event as well. How one cannot be seduced by certain athletes and their accomplishments doesn’t compute with me. We all love to cheer for the underdog, but on many occasions I was dearly hoping for the favorites to win and expand their already ridiculously rich trophy cabinets even wider. I made an effort to watch the likes of Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Mo Farrah (who fell during his race and still won the gold medal!)… Watch and learn from the best, be inspired. What makes these people superior athletes, able to perform under pressure and under the spotlights not just once, but repeatedly? Traits we should all be emulating no doubt.

For all the extraordinary sporting stories the Olympics offer, the Games offer more than that. Bringing people together from all around the world, no barriers, no dogmatism, the athletes accepted one another as brothers and sisters. A lot can also be learned from that, right? Everyone appeared to understand that concept except for the Egyptian wrestler who refused to shake hands with his Israeli opponent. Reports also mentioned that the Egyptian was contemplating not even turning up for the bout just hours before the scheduled match was to take place. Rightly so, he was sent home. I bring this up because – as squash players – we all know that squash lost out to wrestling in the 2013 vote for inclusion. I guess nothing can embarrass the IOC enough.

What I can’t quite make sense of however is the handful of “athletes” that clearly didn’t belong – or deserve – to be there. The Philippine divers for example. Not sure if they were there for comical relief? Or the Ethiopian swimmer who finished the 100m dash over half a pool length behind everyone else… and this gem from the 2012 Olympics in the 400m “sprint”. Why the IOC allow this is beyond me when the Olympics is supposed to be the best of the best of the best… is it not?

Well, most of the time, yes. But not always. Look at golf. (Again, another sport squash lost out to for inclusion). Many of the top men opted out of Rio stating the Zika Virus as the excuse, but Rory McIlroy later admitted in a statement that he didn’t really care for golf being in the Olympics in the first place. It was hardly high on his priority list when compared to competing in the majors. Look at soccer – do the best players in the world play the Olympics? Err, no, they don’t. The Olympics certainly do not replace the World Cup. Do you think the best baseball players in the world will travel to Tokyo in 2020 – in the middle of the MLB season? Again, no. They will not. (Squash also lost out to baseball for inclusion.) So why does the IOC include sports where the best athletes don’t compete, and frankly, have no interest?

How about the sports that require judges to establish winners and losers? Equestrian, Gymnastics, Diving, Synchronized Swimming, Trampoline, to a certain extent Boxing… leaving the result up to the opinion of a few individuals rather than being able to definitively determine who won is a little illogical is it not? You think even a hint of bias doesn’t exist? It’s like when Miguel Cabrera is batting – everyone knows the strike zone gets a little smaller for him when he steps up to the plate. Umpires will flatly deny it, be he gets just about every border line call to go his way… (Go Tigers!)

Squash doesn’t have any of these issues. A winner and a loser are clearly defined without a judge’s help, players respect each other more than ever, and undoubtedly the best players in the world would sell their soul to represent their country in the Olympics.

The 2020 Games are in Tokyo, Japan. Five sports were added to that agenda: 1. Baseball / softball. Full of drug cheats, the best players won’t go anyway. 2. Surfing. Winners are based on judges’ opinion. 3. Sport Climbing. Involves three disciplines: sport, bouldering, and speed. 40 climbers (20 men and 20 women) will compete over four days, and the medalists will be chosen based on the combined results of all three disciplines. Even after googling this, I can’t figure out how somebody wins. 4. Karate. Given the Games will be in Japan, this actually makes sense. But there is already taekwondo and judo, do they really need another martial art? And 5. Skateboarding. This is the one that did it for me. Firstly, I can’t even wrap my head around the fact it is even considered a ‘sport’. In fact many people within the ‘sport’ itself don’t even consider it to be so and reject being a part of the Olympics. Secondly, I can’t find anywhere what type of disciplines will be involved on the Skateboarding ticket come Tokyo. So, do mean to tell me, that the IOC included a ‘sport’ that they have no idea how the competition will even look like? How did that presentation go? “Errr, hey IOC dudes, we’ll just make some gnarly moves and stuff and we’ll all have a wild time… Rad! Here, hold this little baggie for me…” Considering Skateboarding and smoking marijuana virtually go hand in hand, it will be interesting to see how the IOC tackle that little issue.

Given the IOC is openly moving towards making the Games more about ‘attractions’ than actual sports, I fear squash has an even less of a chance to reach its goal of inclusion. The beach volleyball was presented with more a nightclub feel than a sport – is that the new Olympic spirit? Does squash need laser shows and fog machines, score-women parading around in bikinis, midnight matches with music blaring in the background?

I am at the point that I think squash should simply stop trying. Stop wasting the money. Stop wasting the time. Stop the humiliation of be passed up in favor of recreations. I cannot imagine what we would be looked over for in 2020. Maybe the “Pok√©mon Go” competition? I recently read an article from some scribe who listed some sports he thought would be a positive inclusion. Amongst others (I kid you not): Croquet; Chess; Billiards… squash nowhere to be seen. It seems we cannot even get onto this list!

The next opportunity for squash? The 2024 Games may be in Los Angeles as they are one of five finalists to host. The other candidate cities are Rome, Paris, Budapest (Hungary), and Hamburg (Germany). Since the host city has a say in which (new) sports get added to the agenda, squash would probably stand a better chance if Paris or L.A. got the nod. France is a strong squash country and maybe would stand a fair hope of medaling, and USA have a couple of strong women in the mix with Amanda Sohby and Olivia Blatchford – both would be about 30 years old by then.

But don’t hold your breath. We all know squash should be in it. But if the IOC believe that Skateboarding is more worthy, then should squash even want to be in it?

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