When is a sport not just a sport?
When it's Bocce! This sport, or game, or whatever, is a ball.
Quite Frankly... I'm going out on a limb here to say that Bocce ball is the world's oldest and most perfect sport. Contrarians will say, "Hey... hold on, buster... (‘such-and-such'), is the world's oldest sport". Well, contrarians and 'such-and-suchers' would be wrong. Throwing objects (good-sized rocks) at targets (one's neighbors) is the oldest game known to mankind. In fact, we were chucking rocks at the neighbors way before anyone thought to squeeze themselves into a unitard and compete for big, flashy belt buckles. Wrestling, running, and hurling javelins are not the first sports. Nope. Those things were invented by the neighbors immediately AFTER we ran out of rocks to throw.
As hand-tossed rocks morphed into slick, colorful spheres, Bocce ball has grown in popularity. It is already the world's second most popular sport, or game, or whatever it is, right behind what Americans call 'soccer' and what the rest of the world calls 'football'. As with most things from Italy, Bocce ball is enjoyed all over the planet and it is high time we gave this ancient sport, or game, or whatever it is, its proper respect. I will go even farther out on the limb and predict that Bocce will take over the world. That is, until QUIDDITCH catches on. In which case I withdraw my prediction. I mean, who doesn't want to fly... right? But, until we are issued airborne broomsticks, the perfect pastime, regardless of race, color, creed, gender, age, height, weight, or shoe size, is the sport, or game, or whatever it is, of BOCCE. Yep. I put it right up there alongside Competitive Eating as the surest way to true, lasting, and universal peace.
There are precious few sports like Bocce. Certainly, no 'winter sports' can compare. I believe this is due to the unfortunate use of the word, 'winter' in their title. To me, winter sport consists of hot cocoa and canasta. Volleyball and basketball can be played indoors but they are overrun by a race of freakishly tall giants. Besides, one should steadfastly avoid anything to do with 'dribbling'. Almost all other sports are measured by the strict dictates of a clock. One doesn't actually win or lose at these sports so much as run out of time. In Italy, the concept of time and its 'management' have no standing. With the exception of lunchtime, Italians generally have issues with the tracking of time. So, Bocce ball can't be played against a clock like basket-ball, foot-ball, or rugby-ball, (a sport hav-ing no rules whatsoever and whose strange, bloated bladders should not even be called balls). Bocce is a sport, or game, or whatever it is, that cannot be burdened by the minutes, hours or even days it takes to play.
What exactly is Bocce's appeal? Well, it's Italian. There is no other sport where injuries are so rare and red wine and savory snacks so plentiful. There is no other sport where warm embraces and kisses are so generously exchanged between fierce competitors. There is no other sport that goes so well with loud laughter, pizzica music, and where post-game pasta awaits conqueror and conquered alike. Then, there is Bocce's obvious style. There are no plastic salad-strainer helmets to be borne; no little clips for precious knicker cuffs; no egregious argyle sins against fashion as in golf, (alt-hough those little carts look like fun); and certainly no lumpy cauliflower ears. And, with all due respect to the lovely Italian women who made U.S. Open Tennis Tournament history, the wearing of white is reserved for tennis players and virgin brides... not for middle-aged, overweight guys playing Bocce.
Speaking as a short, round, elderly athlete myself, I go invisible whenever 'captains' gather to draw up teams for baseball, tetherball or paintball. Mostly, I prefer to relax from the strain of intense physical activity with a glass of wine and to focus instead on taking a proper nap in the shade until it's time to eat. But in Bocce, I use my clever disguise as a cranky, old person to un-leash my inner Joe Dimaggio, Jake LaMotta, or Willie Mosconi. All it takes is throwing down a few balls (of both Bocce and meat) and perhaps another glass of wine.
Bocce is the only sport, or game, or whatever it is, that has such a desirable disproportion in its high energy to low exertion ratio. It can be very exciting but only slightly more rigorous than a Poetry Slam. While this may not be good news, you could wear a hipster hat with knee high black socks and sandals to either a Bocce match or to attend a Poetry Slam. But let's face it...
if you simply want to hear heavy breathing again, you'd be much better off at the Bocce match.
Clearly, I have made the case that Bocce ball is the world's oldest and most perfect sport. Cynics will say, "Hey... hold on, buster... Bocce is just throwing big balls at small balls."
Well, cynics and 'ball-size-worriers' would be right. There is a small ball and there are large balls but don't let that stop you from enjoying the sport, or game, or whatever it is, of Bocce.
You have only to throw out your pallino (little ball) and follow it up with your Bocce (big ball) to join a long, illustrious line of great thinkers and Bocce enthusiasts like Galileo, Leonardo da Vinci, Augustus Caesar, Queen Elizabeth, Giuseppe Garibaldi, King Tut, Napoleon Bonaparte, George Washington, Sir Francis Drake, and Hoboken's own Frank Sinatra. Certainly none of them was ever worried about the size of their balls!
Frank is an award-winning advertising professional, now retired, from Denver, Colorado who is living the sweet life in southern Italy. In addition to a successful career in advertising, he had stints as the owner of an old west saloon, a film and stage character actor, a certified Santa Claus and a university professor... all of which, he says, are 'remarkably similar'.
He now focuses on traveling, honing his skills as an Italian chef, and writing about Italy as he and his charming wife, the ever lovely Ora, renovate their home in beautiful Basilicata.
Their journey back to Italy started 100 years ago when their ancestors first arrived in the United States. Frank and his wife had dreamed of completing the circle of immigration by returning to their ancestral roots in southern Italy.
Their collective memories of the traditions, values and Italian lifestyle drew Frank and his wife back many, many times until they finally bought their house in Italy and moved there permanently.
In honor of the past, and in anticipation of the future, their lovely home is named, 'La Casa Cent'anni', (The Hundred Years House). 'Cent'anni' is also a celebratory toast of goodwill.
So, "Cent'anni" to you, and to us, and to the next 100 years!