Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Competition ends, Party begins

Every Maccabiah, at the end of the competition the bowlers enjoy a fantastic party at the hotel. Since our hotel wasn’t so fantastic to begin with, I wasn’t expecting the hotel to provide very much and I wasn’t disappointed by them. There wasn’t much to eat, there wasn’t much to drink, and they were just as accommodating as they’ve been our entire trip. Thanks Galil Hotel! Even worse, they wanted us to pay for the meal! We didn’t eat dinner here, and meals are provided under our Maccabiah arrangements yet they wanted more money from us. The hotel was willing to “credit” each person with a meal ticket 40 shekels but still wanted another 100 shekels per person; the IBF was gracious to pay half the difference but there was still 50 shekels to go. None of us had any intention of paying the hotel and when they didn’t really provide anything “party-worthy”, somehow, someway, there was nothing to pay anymore. Go figure.

But before the party began, we had one last piece of business to attend to: The Masters. This is our head-to-head competition and is intensity from the beginning to end. In the first round, I faced Simon Korosi from Sweden and defeated him 2-0. We both bowled awful the first game and better the second, but all you need to do is beat your opponent and that’s what I did.

After each round, everyone is reseeded so and replaced into the bracket so that the lowest remaining seed always plays the highest remaining seed in each round. I knew that if I won, I would face David Eshkenazi of Mexico in Round Two. He and I had two very close matches that both came down to the 10th frame. I struck out in the 10th frame of the first game to force David to get the first strike, which he did not. In the second game, I needed the first strike in the 10th to win the match (though I thought I needed the double) and go the strike on a light hit. That sent me into the Round of 8 against Phil Sachs.

Unfortunately, none of my other teammates (male or female) were able to win a match so I was trying to win for me and for them. When we came back from lunch (after the women had their opening round), I just couldn’t get anything together against Phil and he continued to bowl well. After leaving two huge splits in the beginning of the first game (Greek Church and Big-4) on two shots that I threw well, I was lost and my confidence was waning. I did what I could but didn’t even manage to strike until the 10th frame of the second game. Everyone has matches like that.

But the big news was that Phil continued to go through the field, defeating Or Aviram in the semis and Isaac Amkie in the finals, to win the Masters! It’s the first time an Australian had ever made it to Gold Medal match in the Masters and while it wasn’t always pretty, Phil stayed tough and took advantage of the breaks to take the gold. We are all very happy for him (and Isaac too for bowling very well and making it to the Gold Medal match). Good on ya, mate!

Monday, July 20, 2009

USA wins Bronze in Team Event

To try and give some perspective on the different days of the bowling competition, I’ve been explaining it by comparing our events to Track and Field:

Singles and Doubles are like a sprint – they are fast-paced (only four people on a pair of lanes), it’s easy to fall behind quickly, and difficult (but certainly not impossible) to make up ground over the six games.

Trios is like a mile – you know you don’t have a long time to make to the front of the pack, and things can change a lot more quickly than in a sprint; you want to set a good pace from the beginning and be ready to go strong in the final games.

Five-Man Team is like a marathon – it’s about pace and strategy. Yes, we all bowl our games and sometimes there is only so much you can do about an individual score on the board. But with 30 games counting toward the team total, there is a lot of “jockeying” for position. It’s easy to run away with the title but there are always people nipping at your heels.

Today was our Team Event. When you add in the actual bowling time, practice before each session, lunch, and seven different medal ceremonies, we were at the bowling center for nearly 12 hours. Most sports, a game lasts 1.5-2 hours, then it’s shower time. By the time our day at the bowling center was over, we just wanted to go to the Square and have schwarma dinner at around 10 p.m.

The day itself was very intense. After two games, we led Mexico and Israel, and fell to second going into the break. Unfortunately, we opened the afternoon block with an 834 and essentially locked ourselves into third as Mexico and Israel continued to put up strong games. Entering the final game, we were 120 out of first and 70 out of second but we just didn’t make up the pins. Israel took gold and Mexico silver.

As a team, we’ve never bowled together in this circumstance before; we literally came together on July 2 at JFK and began our journey. At some point before coming to Israel, all the other countries had the chance to compete against and with each other; that is a credit to the Maccabi organizations in each of those countries. To do better, we need to rethink how we approach our selection and training process. It’s a goal for the future.

Tomorrow is our final day of competition, the Masters. It will be a best-of-three single-elimination. I finished in ninth overall, two pins out of receiving a first-round bye; I’ll face Simon Korosi in the first round. Jim, Uri, and Bobby also made the Masters and will be giving it our best shot to bring home some more hardware.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

"Silver Foxes"

We had a very nice two days away from the bowl. VERY nice. For as much as we all enjoy bowling and know that is the primary reason we are here, it's no secret that we enjoy the company of the other bowlers and make sure everyone in Netanya knows it. In fact, one might say we are tearing up Netanya.

But the fact remains that bowling is a priority. Today, thankfully, I bowled well; I was only one of two guys over par for the day (the other was Yahav Rabin of Israel with a 1320 ... I was very happy with my 1208). But the even better news was that we took silver in the trios! Israel ran away with the gold and Mexico took the bronze.

On the women's side, "Team North America," consisting of Jara, Meryl, and starring Lisa Abush as the token Canadian, won the "Silver Shnekel" Award. Unfortnately their totals couldn't count for a real medal, but they did bowl well enough to medal if it did. Props to Jara for putting up 1150 and making a move on the All-Events Board. And Kudos to my roomie, Eric, for lighting up the lanes ... with his big, fat, 100! You go boy! Congrats to everyone; a full set of results are on the IBF Website.

During lunch, Jim and I received our Bronze Medal for the Doubles Event. I'd upload a picture from the medal ceremony but Blogspot and the Wi-Fi in the lobby of the 0-star Galil Hotel are not cooperating. I'll try again later.

But the big news of the day was the protest that was lodged against the Israeli delegation for rearranging their line up during a three-game set. According to the WTBA rules, you cannot change the line up during a set (games 1-3 or games 4-6). When the rule was called into question, a formal complaint was presented to the Appeals Committee and it was decided that the teams would forfeit any team game that they switched their line up but their individual scores count toward their All-Events Total.

So many people were asking, "Why bother making a protest? There are only three women trios eligible for medals and the Israeli Men's team affected didn't place in the medal." The truth is there are principles we all agree to uphold and when someone doesn't play by the agreed upon rules, they need to be called to the carpet. It's not something any of us wanted to do but it's what had to be done. Hopefully we'll all play by the same rules for the rest of the competition.

The night ended with a BBQ and dance party at the Blue Bay Hotel. When it comes to Netayna hotels, now we know we got shafted. Their lobby is phenomenal, the pool area was gorgeous, and their outdoor patio (where we ate and danced) was a great spot. We didn't see their sleeping rooms but they can't be any worse than ours. If they come with dehumidifiers, I am there!!!

Tomorrow is the 5-man team event. Australia, Great Britain, Israel, Mexico, and the U.S. will go for gold in the Men's event; the Aussies and Israelis will battle it out for Gold in the Ladies' Event.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Come with me to Tel Aviv

It was a REALLY late night for all the bowlers. In addition to the party in Tel Aviv, there was a fun time to be had here at the lovely Galil Hotel. By the time we got back areound 2 a.m. (thanks to our bus driver who didn't know how to get from Tel Aviv to Netanya and wouldn't listen to instructions), we found quite a few "pissed" people (that means inebriated in Australian) at our hotel. There were some other "pissed" people (the angry kind) at the hotel, but no one got hurt and everyone had some fun!

Today we went shopping at Nachalat Binyamin, the outdoor market in downtown Tel Aviv. There were plenty of different crafts and pieces of Judaica available and we all picked up a few pieces of Israel to take back home.

Tired and sweaty, we came back and jumped in the pool and relaxed out in the Israel sun. It doesn't get much better than this!

It's time to get ready for Shabbat. More to come Sunday after the Trios. Go USA!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Bronze, Baby

The good news from the day is that my doubles partner, Jim Lewis, and I won the bronze medal in today's Doubles event. We're really excited to have brought home the first (of what we hope well be many) medal to the USA.

On a very challenging day when only one male finished above par (go Phil!), Jim bowled near the top of the pack as well and his effort really helped keep us near the top of the standings sheet. I had one good game (222 in the fourth game) but finished the day at 1070. Overall, while it was very joyous thing to win a medal, I can't help but be a little disappointed about my day on the lanes. Thankfully, we get a few more chances next week to pick it up.

In the All-Events, I'm currently in 10th, so I have some room to grow but can't be too sad, all things considered. You can see PDFs of all the results here.

So to put a big exclamation mark on day (and to shake off all the bad vibes from the bowling center), Eric, Jara, and I went to a Maccabiah party at a club in Tel Aviv. It was loud and packed and so much fun. Just what we needed to make the day complete.

Our troubles with the bowl continue but people are advocating for us and we do appreciate it. Special thanks to Jed Margolis, the executive director of Maccabi USA, who joined us for a little while at the center and heard our perspective about the challenging accommodations both at the hotel and at the bowl. Thanks to Lou Moyerman, our assistant team manager, for working on our behalf as well.

The bowling center has been gracious and is now providing free water bottles to all the bowlers but food still remains a challenge. Even though our team management thought everything had been worked out, such is not the case. It's so bad that on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, all the bowlers will be going for lunch at a restaurant off-site. Way to lose a LOT of business, Netanya Bowling Center!

Tomorrow is an off day (thank goodness) and then we'll roll into Shabbat. We all need a little break and nothing beats Shabbat in Israel.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Day One: Singles

I'm not too disappointed with how I bowled today. Considering I started off with a 170 and 154 game, finishing 7th at -44 (1156 for six games) is respectable if nothing else. Had I not been so disasterous out of the gate, maybe I could have really done some damage. But we've still got lots of bowling to go so I have plenty of time to improve.

The shot was not easy. Isi Eshkenazi from Mexico won with a 1235, followed by Or Aviram and Yahav Rabin both from Mexico. Nofar Herskowitz from Israel won the ladies with 1216. We all expected the scores to be around par and over the six games that really held true. If you could work through the breakdown and find a good shot, you had a chance. Every day is a survival of the fittest ... as is the entire competition. Like I said, this is just the beginning.

True to form, things didn't run on time today. We started a little late, had our ten minutes of practice, and then there was a delay as lanes 3 and 4 were under repair. About twenty minutes later, the lanes were fixed and we had another five minutes of practice. Along with a bunch of little breakdowns and scoring errors here and there, we didn't finish until after 1:30 p.m. And that's on a day when we should be on and off the lanes in about 3-3.5 hours. Just imagine what is in store for us when we bowl the longer format days!

Tomorrow I'll be bowling doubles with Jim. I'm excited to see what the two of
us can do on the lanes together. We should be able to get a good read from each other and work well together. Bobby and Uri will be our second doubles team, and Andy and Eric will take the third doubles team slot. In addition to bowling for discipline medals (singles, doubles, triples, 5-man teams), we are also bowling for All-Events as well as placement in the Masters. Every shot counts every day.

It's a new day tomorrow; the ladies will bowl first and then we'll take the lanes in the afternoon. More to come from Netanya tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Remembering Greg and Yettie

In 1997, tragedy struck the 15th Maccabiah during the Opening Ceremony, when the bridge collapsed as the athletes prepared for the festivities. Among those who perished where Greg Small and Yettie Bennett, and while I never had the honor of making their acquaintance, their memory forever remains a blessing for all the Ten-Pin Bowlers.

Today was the 12th anniversary of that tragic event, and it was appropriate for the bowlers and other guests to pay tribute to Greg and Yettie at a memorial set up at the base of the bridge that now leads athletes to the stadium. It seems as though that event has served as a catalyst for helping all the bowlers create a community of friends and family, not just competitors. While you never want to lose anyone, especially in such a tragic way, it is important to look at the impact they have made on so many.

We also remembered Greg and Yettie during our Opening Ceremony. Even during a joyous time of opening the competition, we don’t forget the sacrifice they made and the strength they have given our bowling family.

The day ended on a slightly more enjoyable note: falafel. In Netanya, there is a nice square (Kikar Ha’atzmaut, Independence Square) that has a few shops and restaurants, as well as a couple places to exchange money. By the time we got back from the memorial – after switching busses in the middle of the highway since our first driver apparently didn’t know where the Ramat Gan Stadium is – it was after 9:30 p.m. and we were a little hungry. Lunch was served at the bowl at 3 p.m. (and it was a fight just to get that arranged, as is everything else with the bowling center) and dinner just got lost. So we took the time to walk the square and grab a late bite. I was not passing up the chance to have Falafel B’Lafa. I do declare there will be a few more of those before we leave.

Tomorrow is our first day of competition. Men bowl in the morning and ladies follow in the afternoon. If I have time, I’ll post from the bowling center.