The Detroit Lions competed to help the community on Tuesday, heading to the Palazzo di Bocce in Orion Township for the seventh annual Tony Filippis Memorial Bocce Tournament.
Players mingled with fans, signed autographs, ate and – of course – played bocce ball.
“First of all, I didn’t know how to pronounce ‘bocce’ until I got here,” said Lions’ safety and fan favorite
“I thought it was similar to bowling, but once you get going, you start to figure out real quick that if you use the same technique as bowling you won’t get any points at all.”
Delmas was one of many players having to learn the finesse of the game, competing against teammates on one of the many courts at Palazzo di Bocce.
“This is my first time playing bocce on an official bocce court,” said Stafford. “I usually play on the beach in the sand – it’s a little bit different strategy, but it’s fun. Not so much rolling as it is tossing.”
Event proceeds, which were approximately $75,000, will benefit the Athletes with Disabilities Network as well as other charities in Michigan through Detroit Lions Charities.
Money was raised through sponsorships, ticket sales and a live auction, which took place toward the end of the event.
Head Coach Jim Schwartz was one of the chairmen for the event along with Tony Battaglia, AJ Filippis and former Detroit Lions lineman Mike Utley.
“You see the players outside of football, coming and having a little competitiveness, having some food and interacting with the fans a little bit – all in a real relaxed atmosphere,” said Schwartz.
“It doesn’t feel like it’s a charity event, it feels like you’re at somebody’s house.”
The fans weren’t the only ones having fun at the event. Players tapped in to their inner competitiveness, figuring out the game to try and better one another.
“For the most part, I held down my team,” joked Burleson. “I was the captain and I provided most of the points. It was one of those things where I just felt a lot of pressure on my back. I truly know what it’s like to be Kobe (Bryant). That’s how I feel. I’m the Kobe of bocce ball.”
Mitchell was quick to interject.
“First of all, he did not pick up all the points,” he said. “It’s a team sport. See, he’s selfish right now. We’ll let him have his shine, but he’s not the man of bocce.”
Burleson contested, “They call me ‘Bocce Burleson.’”
The competitiveness was fun for the players, but the top priority was being amongst the fans.
“The fans are genuinely excited,” said Schwartz of the feedback he received. “They like the additions we’ve made. This town is starved for a winner. When we do, they’ll follow us even more. But they’re excited about what we’ve done so far.”
Stafford added, “To be able to give back to our fans and connect with them in a laid-back atmosphere where they get to see us with our guard down is a lot of fun for them and it’s a good time for us, too.”