Coaches Waufle, Woodson, and Bresnahan, along with Raiders Legend Art Thoms, listen to former head coach Steve Mariucci and discuss strategy. Photo by Tony Gonzales.
Yesterday, members of The Oakland Raiders coaching staff and Raiders Legends participated in the 13th Annual Madden-Mariucci Bocce Ball Tournament in Livermore, Calif. Cornerbacks coach and Hall of Famer Rod Woodson, defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan, special teams coordinator John Fassel, defensive line coach Mike Waufle, safeties coach Kevin Ross, and assistant to the head coach Tom Jones, tried to master bocce ball in match ups with teams from all over the Bay Area. The Raiders team was coached by Chief Executive Amy Trask and Hall of Fame cornerback Willie Brown. Hall of Fame Center Jim Otto and Raiders Legend Art Thoms also displayed their bocce ball talents throughout the day.
The Madden-Mariucci Bocce Ball Tournament is dedicated to raising money for various charities. This year, the funds raised through sponsors, donations and the silent auction, were donated to the Special Olympics Northern California, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International (JDRF), Easter Seals Disability Services, and Tri-Valley High School Football.
"We raise money for the kids," said former head coach and event organizer, Steve Mariucci. "Most everything is donated so we have very little overhead, most of it goes right to the kids, whether it's juvenile diabetes research or Special Olympics. But that's why we do it. Lately, it's been tri-county football as one of the beneficiaries too. We all know how expensive it is for high school athletics in general in any sport, so being that John and I are both involved in football in our lives, we felt that they were in need of some monies to help them refurbish helmets or shoulder pads or whatever those expenses might be."
The Raiders have participated in the Battle of the Bay bocce tournament for many years. "It is always our pleasure to support Coaches Madden and Mariucci and the charities which benefit from this event," Trask said.
The event is designed to be a fun day full of good-humored, but intense competition. In addition to contending with the Raiders coaching staff, teams had to compete against players and coaches from the other professional sports teams. The San Francisco 49ers brought Coach Jim Tomsula and former players Eric Wright and J.J. Stokes, while Golden State Warriors forward Dorell Wright demonstrated his bocce skills. The San Jose Sharks were represented by TV broadcaster Randy Hahn and former player Jamie Baker and the San Francisco Giants had former pitchers Vida Blue and Bill Laskey in attendance.
Each team played four matches to determine who would move on to the playoffs. The Raiders first two games pitted them against Funicolare and Vanguard. The only coach with extensive bocce skills was Coach Waufle, who grew up in an Italian family that played bocce in New York every Sunday. Most of the coaching staff, however, had never played before. With little practice, the Raiders lost their first two matches. "We're doing very poorly," said Coach Fassel. "We're finding out that if you don't practice, you're probably not going to be very good. Right now we're 0-2 and getting dominated, but the Raiders cheerleaders helped us out a little bit."
The Raiderettes cheered for the coaching staff, but also had the chance to try their hand at bocce. Football's Fabulous Females lost their first match, but came back in their second game to scrape by with a win. "They let us play and we learned quickly how to play some bocce," said Raiderette Anna. "Good thing Raiderette Jonni learned how to play last year so she could help us with some tips. We started out a little slow but once we warmed up, we were doing pretty well."
The team of Raiders coaches then fought their way back in the third game against KPMG and recorded their first win of the day. In their last divisional matchup against the Falcons, the Raiders coaches and legends nearly pulled off an upset victory, but lost, putting them out of contention for the playoffs. Although the coaches struggled with bocce, the actual game was not the most important aspect of the day. "Raising money for great causes and be able to distribute money and help people, that's the number one reason you do something like this," said Coach Waufle.
Coach Woodson agreed with his bocce teammate. "I think it's huge," said Coach Woodson. "I think when you're in a position to help out the less fortunate, I think it's negligent on your part if you don't help charities. I'm glad we're here. I'm glad John [Madden] and Steve Mariucci are doing something for the communities and charities around this area. I think it's much needed, not just from John, but from all individuals who have a place of status."
"I think all these franchises and people who are here should be applauded for what they're doing," said Coach Ross, who played his first ever game of bocce. "It's a good cause and it's a nice event and helps out everybody."
In participating in the Madden-Mariucci Super Bowl of Bocce, the coaching staff learned the game of bocce, bonded, and had the opportunity to give back to the Bay Area community.