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A candidate for the presidency of the Marine Park Bocce Club claims he’ll breathe new life into the aging group by promoting gender equality in what many senior members still consider a man-only sport.
“We’re the new generation,” said John Bourbakis, a 59-year-old Marine Park resident and one-year club member. “We want change.”
And what that change needs to be is especially clear to when it comes to the rights of women players.
“A lot of members say it’s a man’s sport,” said Bourbakis. “It’s not a man’s sport, it’s anybody’s sport. You can’t stop these people from joining.”
Excluding women is not official club policy, but it appears to be the position of a minority faction within the bocce club’s ranks.
The club’s official roster lists 17 female members, but they tend to limit their appearances to the club’s occasional coffee and cake social affairs, and you’ll rarely find them at the court playing against the more competitive men, according to Friedman.
“We used to see a couple women in the morning, now virtually never,” he said. “Really, they come out for the social events.”
“I don’t have anything against women, I just don’t want to play with them,” said one member who would only speak to us if we promised to leave his name out. “If it comes to the point where they’ll put women on the same court as me, I’ll quit.”
Bourbakis claims he opposes a faction within the bocce group that takes every opportunity to keep prospective members from joining the club for fear of longer waits between games.
“Two guys came over to the big court and asked if they could play, and the members said, ‘no,’ ’’ said Bourbakis. “They told them only members could play and that’s not true. They’re public courts.”
Bourbakis’s likely opponent — the conservative Joe Farrara, who’s been in the club for three years — wouldn’t tell us where he stands on women’s liberation on Southern Brooklyn’s bocce courts.
“I’m not too sure how I feel on that,” he said.
Whatever the case, Bourbakis has drawn a line in the sand, and the upcoming elections will show whether the club will vote for change, or more of the same.
But Bourbakis says more of the same could mean the end of the club, which he thinks needs to recruit as many people as possible — both male and female — if it is going to survive. So a vote for him is a vote for the clubs very existence, while a vote for Farrara means the two things guaranteed to all bocce players: taxes and death.
“He’s saying he wants to raise the dues, he doesn’t want women to play, and he doesn’t want new people to join,” said Bourbakis. “But without new blood, this club is going to die. He’s just going to end up slitting his own throat.”
But many longtime Marine Park bocce players view Bourbakis as a fly in the ointment who is only interested in ruining their good time.
“He’s only been a member for a year and he’s trying to get his way,” Ronnie Cohen, a Bocce Club veteran of more than 20 years.
The club’s current president, Mark Friedman, is not seeking re-election in October.Reach reporter Colin Mixson at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (718) 260-4514.
©2013 Community Newspaper Group
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