Chicago's chapter of American Bocce is about to conclude its Return to Play seasons. Tuesday, October 20th will be the last night of pandemic bocce league play. American Bocce will continue on through the coming months, but the gameplay will be pared down to single day tournaments—though the tournaments will be connected, but that's a story for another day.
There have been three seasons on Cleo's patio courts this "summer" and each one has been sold to capacity at 16 teams apiece. Of those 48 teams we have had 35 unique pairs and only four teams have played all three seasons—Halftime Calf Show (reigning champs); Hot Ham Water; Mask Up, Ball Down (season 1 champs); and Yo MTV Rats!
The final standings of the regular season see Mask Up, Ball Down and Halftime Calf Show finishing second and third, respectively, and they sport the best point differentials in the league. The top team after three weeks, however, is Lovers in Lockdown. Lilia and Mike Zaparaniuk have a love/love relationship with bocce—they built a beautiful court in their side yard—and a love/hate relationship with the Cleo's courts—Lilia has won championships on 'em and Mike says he hates them. They're the only team to win all six games, though, and they beat the reigning champs last week.
Does that make them the favorites? Who are the contenders? The dark horse candidates? The Upsetters.
I'm gonna break it down for ya so you can fill out your own bracket and follow along as we go live on Instagram throughout the night. You can be sure that I'll check in with results and give ya a live look in on the conclusion of the semifinals (call it 9:40 CDT) as well as the championship game (call it 10:00 CDT).
THE TOP LINE CONTENDERS
- Lovers in Lockdown (6-0, +20)
- Mask Up, Ball Down (5-0-1, +39)
- Halftime Calf Show (5-1, +33)
- Mo Money, Mo Bocce (5-1, +22)
The only surefire threats to these four teams are each other and themselves. Yes, any team can beat any team in a single game of bocce, but if any of these top four teams don't make it to the semifinals, then there was an unexpected upset.
Lovers in Lockdown consistently make the right shot selection and, perhaps most importantly, trust each other on the courts. That earned trust puts them at the top of my list. Halftime Calf Show can and often will beat ya with finesse and brute force doled out in the right measure. Mask Up, Ball Down are the only team I've seen consistently hit the "ABC hit-and-replace" bocces on these courts and when that's working you're in big trouble. Mo Money, Mo Bocce is the best at playing proximity game at Cleo's and if they stay in line with the pallino to start frames, it's gonna be a long (or maybe I should say short) night for their opponents.
SHOULDA SEEN 'EM COMING
- Dew'ds of Tullamore (3-3, -3)
- Hot Ham Water (2-2-2, -9)
- Hold My Pallino 2: Electric Boogaloo (3-3, +7)
- Fly the WINchester (4-2, +5)
- Yo MTV Rats (2-4, +1)
The Dew'ds of Tullamore are basically on their third season straight out on the Cleo's courts (changed one teammate this season). They've had terrible luck throughout the season and that's kinda gotta change at some, right? Good luck finding a pair that has played more bocce in 2020 than Hot Ham Water. McD and Lolo have played at least 3 times a week for 3 months straight and it's time they win some medals for it. Hold My Pallino 2 have been the team that's quietly impressed all summer long. I have been patiently waiting for Jo and Phil to acclimate to the Cleo's courts (first time at this location) and last week they were dialed in. Rookies Fly the WINchester can't stop winning andI'm not gonna bet against that. If someone's played more bocce than HHW, then it's Bryce of Yo MTV Rats. They've only lost close games, so if they can get on the other end of those matches, I see medals around their necks.
DARK HORSE CANDIDATES
- Two Crocces and a Bocce (2-2-2, 0)
- The Hunt for Blackacre (1-3-2, -9)
- This Is Getting Uncomfortable (
- Murray's Parents (2-3-1, -9)
- BA TBD (2-4, -21)
These teams all seem to either run hot or cold and that's a hard way to live on playoff night when you need to win four straight games, but who am I to say none of these four will ride a wave to their first ABC title? And one quality that all four of these teams have that no one else can claim is that they will get in your head when they're running hot. Don't get me wrong: they're all lovely, but they will absolutely let you know they just hit a great shot and that you suck.
- It's Gaiek Like Cake (1-5, -35)
- Cosmos (0-6, -34)
A couple fresh to league rolling bocce ballers round out the power rankings. Both pairs have made tremendous strides this season, but even if they manage to pull off the initial upset against the 1st/2nd seed, they're likely to run into one of my favorite "Shoulda seen em coming" squads. It's a tough row to hoe, but I'm hoping they get some good experience out of it.