It all began at Locke Grammar School in Chicago on a sunny Sunday afternoon. "Little Phil, now is your time to play, we are without Uncle Doc." The long-awaited request had come forward from my father, and finally, I had a chance to compete with the most respected players of my family.
Today, the game still fascinates me as it did on that grammar school playground so long ago.
The game of course, is Bocce.
My dad is gone now, but never in his lifetime could he have imagined that I would become the U.S. Nationals Single Champion. This was a terrific thrill in my life. Naturally, it required a great deal of dedication, study of the best players, perfect practice and a strong will to be the best. But what really made the championship meaningful to me was being the first person born in the United States to win the title. The game and that title that was brought to this country by the Italians and controlled by them for decades suddenly fell into le mani americane.
Becoming champion made me realize that Bocce was more than just a game that I and few others were interested in. Bocce is without a doubt the best kept secret in all of sports. Two million Americans play Bocce regularly; 25 million Americans have played it at least once. The nation, especially the baby boomers, is slowly discovering what my family knew long ago: Bocce can be played competitively no matter the participant's age or size.
In order to bring Bocce to a level of popularity that it so justly deserves, I have formed the World Bocce Association (WBL), an upbeat, not-for-profit organization dedicated to "spreading the word." The WBL is changing the perception that Bocce is only a game played by little old Italian men, getting drunk on red wine. We have found that the easiest way to counter the stereotypes is to get young people involved. Through the efforts of the WBL, schools and park districts are now installing regulation courts. In the age of shrinking budgets, officials have found Bocce to be a happy solution: low upkeep costs while providing the students with a great deal of fun.
The WBL also enjoys a productive relationship with the Special Olympics. In fact, in July at the World Games, I had the unique privilege of overseeing the American delegation of Bocce Olympians - some 53 young people from throughout the nation.
Moreover, the WBL has formed a World Bocce League Tour, a circuit of competitions combining the very best of players with the country's most desirable venues.
The first Tour stop was Chicago. There was a "Kick-Off classic," teaming Hollywood celebrities with amateur enthusiasts and all proceeds going to the Special Olympics. Then, of course, the actual tournament, with 64 teams competing for at least $100,000 in prize money.
With its natural appeal and flexibility, Bocce is sweeping the nation and rising to new heights. However, the great challenge ahead cannot be met without the involvement of all of us. We should take pride in the game. We need the help of corporations to recognize and promote this great game. We also need the help of ordinary people - volunteers, club members, independent players, even those previously unaware of the fun and excitement of Bocce. In addition, women today are playing Bocce as much as men. I ask you to get involved, rather than allowing the men to lead the way.
Bocce is the oldest sport in human history, having been developed some 7200 years ago. Let's not keep it a secret in America any more!
To become involved with the World Bocce Association, or to express your opinions and suggestions, please write, fax, or phone us:
Mr. Bocce - Phil FerrariMr. Philip Ferrari - America's Mr. Bocce
World Bocce League
14 tiverton ct.
Algonquin, IL 60102
Telephone: (630) 253-1090
We'd love to hear from you!
Our E-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org