It’s always tough this time of year. The sun is out and the six month deep freeze has finally broken. Your instincts are telling you to get outside, but you know there is one week of left of BoPo. Stay focused. Everyone had a fun season, and only one team is going to end the season with a win, but as of this morning there are still 16 teams with championship dreams. Those dreams had Jerk and Bustah and Precious and Cheese and Hungus putting in work yesterday in 70 degree weather at 4pm. Those dreams had 1st round giant-killers Guacabowle holding a team practice on a sunny Saturday morning with the lanes almost to themselves. Luckily Mother Nature has sent us a gray day, a bowling day, to turn our eyes and minds back to BoPo for the thrilling conclusion. How will the season finale unfold? What unbelievable twists are left after a 1st round that saw the losses of two top title contenders? There are some incredibly strong match ups tonight, mixed in with the last few Cindarellas battling some of the favorites. Four games early, four games late. Come take it in, and be a part of it with cheers and heckling. For tonight, all players on teams that have been eliminated already get $1 Mooseheads or $3 wine to encourage you to be a part of the night.
#11 Binga’s (8-5) -1 vs #6 Guns of Brighton (9-4): I told Jamaican Jerk yesterday that this was a battle of heavyweights. “No”, he corrected, “super-heavyweights!” Well it’s definitely a good matchup, one that looks like a quarterfinal or final four game. Both teams have had moments of looking like worldbeaters this season, and also had some slumps. GOB roared out of the gate with Mr. Pickles 289 in Week 1 and E-Minor leading the league in average for a month (you owe me $20 Gutterboy!) They cruised along for weeks slowly losing steam, then hit a bumpy part of the schedule late. They closed the season with a win but looked sullen and headed nowhere. Then the playoffs hit and it looked like they had new life. They were loose and smiling and advanced with ease. Binga’s knocked off Back In Black this season, but also lost to some teams it should have handled easily. Cookie led them out of the gate early when Jerk was struggling, and then Jerk started to get his groove back -not the dominance of 2013, but still the Jerk. The rock has been Chernobylayne, having an amazingly consistent season in the 150s. Plus Hot Mango Mike staked his claim to a repeat win of the Sparkplug award. How will this unfold? The talent is equal on the whole. Jerk and Pickles is an awesome showdown. iHand has a history of stepping up when he has to, and Tso’s rebuilt hand is as good as new. Seatown versus Layne will be good watching too. Jon Moon gets his first real playoff test, and Cookie is the hungriest for a championship. How quickly will E-Minor turn on himself, and will Jerk get the best out of Mango to fire the team up? This will be great watching if GOB gets off to a good start. If they start slowly I see it crumbling in on them. I’m going with Binga’s intangibles, even though Jerk seems pretty tight right from putting to much of the pressure on himself.
#22 B.E.E.R. (6-8) -3 vs #28 Guacabowle (9-4): A week ago I did not see a scenario where B.E.E.R. could be a 2nd round favorite, but the unthinkable happened. Guacabowle knocked off league titans Off Constantly and shook up the whole thing. Guacabowle has had a great start to their franchise. They are only in their third season but have already won a Team of The Year award and now have the most memorable playoff upset in league history. They are not satisfied just getting here, either. They have been practicing all week. Cilantro posted a 234 on Saturday, they fear no one, and they are going for it. They remind me of 2010 B.E.E.R., upstarts who found themselves winning and advancing. Unfortunately for them the depth of the league in 2014 is very different than 2010. They face a B.E.E.R. team coming off a very unusual season. They struggled to a 4-8 record and had to go to the Sunday Shootout. They spent weeks averaging around 600, nursing injuries and muddled minds due to a terribly timed team practice. Were there a trophy for it Hungus would be the frontrunner for worst Captaining move of the year for that idea. That said, things have started to turn late. Back to back wins over OC and SOD gave them some confidence (though those two teams have already been knocked out so maybe those wins are suspect). Now they’ve won both of their playoff games 10-0. Tom Richards rolled a 208 in the 1st round, and Queen Bee a 191. A win tonight for a trip to the quarters and BEERs regular season struggles will seem like a long ago memory.
#1 Back In Black (11-2) -5 vs #16 I.B.S. (11-2): Back In Black got a little wake up call last week when the Pinups, a team whose upset chances I had rated as “nil”, jumped out to a 4-1 (almost 5-0) lead with straightballs and Brooklyns and all manner of approaches. BIB is loaded however, and quickly rallied for the next ten points. It was probably the best thing that could have happened to them. They are defending champs and the number one seed and may have bought into the general air of inevitability around themselves. I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if they respond by coming down hard on I.B.S. Wat Wat’s band of bowlers is having a dream run. They were 0-12, now they are division champs in the Sweet 16 with the chance to take on the #1 seed. Pretty heady stuff for the poop-mongers. IS there a path to a win? It seems impossible, but so did Stevie rolling a 147 and getting BIB’s only point (last) in game 1 vs the Pinups. Oolie could have the night of his life and steal a top point or two. Lucky could regain her Y&B form and be in the 160s, or maybe Ripper takes that role. Anything’s possible, but this looks like the closest there is to a sure thing bet in tonight’s lineup of games.
#2 Leisure Rolls (10-3) -3 vs #15 My Balls (12-1): It’s time to face the fact that the Rolls are here to stay. They looked like a veteran playoff team last week weathering a fired up Granola squad shooting miles above their average by heartlessly taking each point by 10 or so pins. It totally deflated the underdogs. Perhaps it’s because they do in fact have a ton of playoff experience, winning an astounding 148 Casco Bay league titles. They don’t have a a top dawg, but they don’t have any weak links either. They are a confident bunch – talking junk on the board, openly discussing possible final four opponents, wearing sweatpants in public. They take that swagger into a match with My Balls, the Tuesday B champs with the best record in all of BoPo. The offseason acquisition of the bricked Wej has done wonders for this team. Wej gives them a front of the lineup bowler but in a partying package. He has stepped up his game in the playoffs too with a 193 average in three games opening round. Captain Barry Violet has been more of a wildcard but he is a competitive dude who should rise to the occasion. Rambler and DC Lane will need to step up in their limited appearances. Big Red may hold the key. She has been in a slide, but early in the season was dominating. If she brings that back then the upset is at least possible.
Still reading? Let’s go to the Late Games!
#26 Bowled & Beautiful (5-9) -1 vs #24 Nutz (5-9): Raise your hand if you had this matchup in your bracket. Liar! I saw all the brackets, no one had it. Not a single prognosticator had B&B getting here, and the Nutz game was split. Perhaps that’s because these teams got last and 2nd to last place in their respective divisions with a combined 6-18 regular season record. Well one of them is going to the quarterfinals and will have a real look at the semis. Crazy. B&B’s win last week was certainly the bigger shocker – a large number of folks had SOD ticketed for the finals. They have shown they play best in the bigger games, and from here on in each game is the biggest they’ve ever been a part of. Billy James and Mr. Mayor haven’t been consistent, but one of them is always having a big game. Dr. Pheelgood and Saw have stepped up in slots too. Jenerator has a number of championships under her belt and is the steadying hand, then Bo Julius is always a threat to go off. This team is loose and in a good place. Nutz have a short bench, but sometimes only having four people is a big advantage as everyone gets in a rhythm. Bustah is of course the big gun, but last week Captain Herbie led the way with a 197 average. This game is hard to call. If Bustah goes off no one from B&B can keep up with him, but I think the team depth of B&B works to their advantage in this one for a down to the wire win.
#3 Yahtzee (11-2) -5 vs #14 Young & Bowled (5-8): Looky here, Cheddar gets a rematch with a team that knocked him out of the the tourney last time he was in it. Of course he no longer plays for BEER and the faces have changes for Y&B (where have you gone, The Truth?) but you know he’s aware. Y&B has been a team I’ve tried all year to bump up the rankings only to see them lose. They had a good average but seemed to find ways to lose. That may have changed with that playoff opener. Pistol Pete returned to form running off five straight to close game 2 and win the match. He has Senator ITZ, a near lock for 170+ every time, and rookie Nugget looking to bounce back from last week. The Cleaner, Hark and Samurai are harder to bank on but each has had big games. Of course Yahtzee pretty much always has big games. They look to me like the favorite to win it all. Sparkles has looked dominant, and Cheddar is Cheddar. Pauly, their #3, rolls 230s. Lala and Babe haven’t had to do much yet but they are capable when called upon. If it wasn’t for Bowldemort setting a new BoPo playoff low record with a 70 I’d say these guys look unstoppable.
#4 Still L.O.S. (10-3) -1 vs #13 Strikes of Hazzard (7-6): Get your popcorn ready! L.O.S. survived the absence of precious and the Cheese explosion to advance past Incredibowls. Mr. Stiffy did the heavy lifting and possesses a gaudy 235 playoff average. Maybe he’s the number one? Getting Precious back is a huge boost to the team’s chances, and Shithawk has found his niche as the team’s Smack Talk presence (he’s been on fire). The focused Captain Alley was also very solid in the first round win with her 150 average. Next up, Strikes of Hazzard. Some have called these guys the team of destiny since the Bowling Ball is kind of themed like them. Deputy will be flexing and adjusting his cowboy hat win or lose, you can bet on that. Uncle Jesse made a run at Captain of the Year honors by holding on to Deputy in the offseason after he was linked to at least two other teams, and bringing in General Lee, a ‘yankee ringer’ who turned out to be a great BoPo fit. This is why he brought you in, General. Playoff match ups against powerhouses like the Twin Towers (and Stiffy). Miz Tizdale has a history of clutch playoff rolling, and Uncle Jesse himself has big game potential. This should be an amazing game, and a culture clash. Hazzard is loose and likely drunk, and LOS seems to be tight and feeling pressure. I have zero confidence in my pick but have to bet on Stiffy after his opening round.
#9 XXX Club (8-5) -3 vs #25 Saucy Posse (3-10): Both of these teams advanced in thrilling fashion. Both had games go down to the final frame with the entire league watching. The Club held off a game underdog in The Linguists thanks in huge part to Herk’s magic ball. HE found a million different ways to strike in posting a huge 215 average for the night. Offseason signing Big Rig finally delivered on thy hype with a monster game three to seal things and looks like he has finally found the right adjustment for Bayside. Look out. Tango and Roadhouse didn’t even need good games. Saucy Posse may have finally shaken their curse. It looked like another crazy loss for them after jumping out to a 5-0 lead on TDYOB, then watching it get tied at 5 and going to the 10th frame. After three open 10ths Hot Sauce begged Walter to step up and not let them give the win away, and he did. Now they have a little confidence. T-Bear did surprising well, and may be able to hang with Two Koops and Bora tonight. Walter and Wing Sauce need to be at the top of their game. It’s a long shot, but it could happen.