It Takes Balls.

A friend of mine is in a bocce league. He’s in another state so I can’t join his league—you could even say he’s out of my league—but there is an Italian restaurant near me that has a bocce court and I keep meaning to ask if they have regular games because it seems like it would be fun, although the rules are completely bonkers. I’ve tried reading the Wikipedia article on bocce at least three times now and I still haven’t quite made sense of it. In terms of rules it seems akin to curling although I think it’s also related to the broader category of lawn games that include croquet and even golf. Billiards also seems to be descended from lawn games—let’s face it, golf is basically pool but with a single, smaller ball, and a single pocket that’s much farther away—and pays homage to its grassy roots with a table covered with green felt.

In the category of things I didn’t really think about until I started thinking about them is how many games employ a ball of some sort which suggests that almost all have a common origin. The skill of throwing a ball or hitting a ball with a stick must have been useful to early humans. It was a good way to practice hunting skills.

Just as important, though, or perhaps even more important, sports could also provide a form of bonding. Any group activity with a set of clearly defined rules can bring people together. Unfortunately games can also be divisive, but, while there are serious matters we have to deal with, games aren’t a matter of life and death.

Sometimes games can even be divisive when you don’t expect it, like the time I was watching a 9-ball match on TV and my wife sat down to watch it with me. She said, “So it’s called 9-ball because they have to sink nine balls.”

“Right,” I said, “and in numerical order. There’s also a game called 7-ball that uses seven balls.”

“So 8-ball uses eight balls then?”

“No, 8-ball has fifteen balls.”

“I give up.”

To be fair she does understand curling a lot better than I do.

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10 Comments

  1. River

    I used to see old Italian men playing bocce in the park when I was growing up in New Jersey. They took it very seriously.
    🙂

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I think I’d be put off by anyone who took it too seriously. Those balls are heavy and could do some damage.

      Reply
  2. mydangblog

    We have a bocce set but we’ve never used it—we can’t figure out the rules as well. I’ve tried lawn bowling before but decided I was way too young to join a league 🤣

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I feel that way about shuffleboard! It seems to be a game you can only take up after retirement. In college I was briefly part of a regular bowling league, until the other players decided they were better off being one player short.

      Reply
  3. markbialczak

    I think I know the rules to bocce, Chris, which sometimes is worse than not knowing the rules at all. Anyway, I own a set and have played the game here and there.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      That’s amazing, Mark, although I can understand why baseball is more our speed.

      Reply
  4. M.L. James

    I’ve heard of bocce. I’ve never seen it played nor attempted to try my hand at it. David and I discovered curling though when watching The Winter Olympics. It’s kind of a weird game…and while we were fascinated at the time…I think it was a passing fancy. Mona

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      My wife and I tune into curling at every Winter Olympics. We’ve even talked about going to a local game. Yes, there are curling teams in Nashville, but it has to be indoors even in the winter. It’s funny to me how people develop these games with such intricate rules.

      Reply
  5. ANN J KOPLOW

    I had a ball reading this, Chris. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I know we’d have a ball playing bocce if we ever got the chance, Ann.

      Reply

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