Archive for Thursday, June 19, 2008

Never too old to learn a new game

June 19, 2008

You are never too old to learn a new game.

We had never even heard of Bocce before our friend Mike Keohane talked about it several years ago. Sunday after church, he invited us over to his house to teach us how to play.

He has a beautiful back yard, and there is a Bocce court at one end. To our knowledge it is the first and only court in Lansing. It is about 10 feet wide by 60 feet long with side boards about 10 inches high. It is covered with tons of crushed gravel.

A lot of strategy is involved, and anywhere from two to eight people can play at one time. Bocce can be played by all ages. There is a small ball called Pallino that is thrown onto the court. Players then throw larger balls at the Pallino to see who gets the closest. It is a combination of bowling, horseshoes, shuffleboard and billiards. It was so much fun, we decided to find out about its history,

This game dates to 5200 B.C. in Egypt. Apparently the game made its way to Greece, then to Rome. Roman soldiers played a game like Bocce during the third century B.C. In this version of the sport, stones were used instead of balls. Later the Romans played the game with coconuts that they brought back from Africa.

There were many famous people who played this game, including Emperor Augustus, Galileo and Leonardo DaVinci. Even George Washington had a Bocce court on his Mount Vernon estate in 1780.

Down through history, Bocce shared a fate common to many games of the middle ages. It was banned both by kings and the church. In 1319 Roman Emperor Charles IV outlawed the game because it took people's attention away from military matters. King Carlos of Spain would issue a similar ban. Perhaps they were right. Legend says that English Admiral Sir Francis Drake was playing Bocce when he was told of an imminent attack by the Spanish Armada. His response "First we must finish the game."

The Republic of Venice also outlawed Bocce in 1576. Those caught playing the game were fined and sometimes sent to prison. I am sure glad we did not live in those days. This game overcame the official attempts to stop it and continues to be played today all over the world.

It was a lot of fun to learn this game thanks to Mike and Alice. By the way my wife came from behind to beat me. There will be a rematch.

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