Isn't it time for you to play?
The 2019 Linear Bocce World Champion is
For years Jeff Norris was best known in linear bocce circles for his to-the-manor-born sense of sartorial splendor.
Seersucker jacket? Check.
Loafers with no socks? That too.
But on Saturday Norris showed there is substance behind all that style as he defeated more than 70 competitors to win the 2019 World Championships of Linear Bocce.
“I just tried to put all distractions behind me and focus,” Norris said at the Victory Banquet held at the Red Key Tavern, while wearing full lederhosen, even a little Alpine-ish hat. He looked like something out of “The Sound of Music” and in fact German folk music blared from a speaker in his beverage cart throughout the competition. “It’s October,” he explained, "which to me means Octoberfest.”
This was the fifth World Championship in this new but fast-growing sport, in which players roll bocce balls up a bumpy, cruel alley between Park and Broadway avenues just above 42nd Street. Linear bocce is bocce with a twist. While traditional bocce is played back and forth, like horseshoes or corn hole, linear bocce goes only forth. On Saturday play began in the 4200 block and advanced to the 4800 block, with teams of four spread out over the course.
The weather was perfect for linear bocce with sunny skies and temperatures in the low 70s and light winds.
The participants voted on which charity should receive the money raised through the $30 entry fee each player paid, and the decision was overwhelmingly in favor of the Brebeuf Gay-Straight Alliance, a school group that promotes understanding and harmony among people.
The festivities concluded on a bittersweet note, with the players paying tribute to Jeff Ayers, long-time bocce enthusiast who died suddenly in June. This they did by singing a song the talented and hilarious Ayers co-wrote with his friend and frequent collaborator Jim Kelly about playing bocce in back alleys (“Hello Rat,” was one of the lines). Ayers attended and helped organize every linear bocce event ever held. He is missed.
Special thanks to the event’s corporate sponsor, Some Guys Pizza, and also to Leigh Hedger and A.J. Mast, who hosted the tense, final “shoot-out” at their beautiful home on the alley. Thanks also to bocce marshals Jim Kelly, Chuck Gillespie and the O’Connor brothers, Mike and Dan.
Will Higgins, commissioner, American Association of Linear Bocce