Monday, November 13, 2006

Bocce Ball

Yesterday we decided to give bocce ball a try as neither Deb or myself had ever played it - in my case I'd never even seen it played.

Well to be fair, I knew it wasn't much different from other games that were either based on it or it was based on, so it didn't come as a complete surprise to find that I could follow quite easily how it was played.

The pair of us biked down our little hill as the bocce ball area is right by the lake side cafe and the picnic tables that I mentioned in my previous post. Like everything here in the park, the event was perfectly organised and residents were soon appearing from all compass points as the 'kick off' time approached. The massed golf carts and bikes were soon swamping the parking bays and we were introducing ourselves to the seasoned players like artistes at a Royal Command Performance. I think we were the only 'newbees' but I've rarely met such a welcoming bunch of people and although I initially went with no intention of playing, I was sucked into participation by the warmth of my fellow park residents.

We were able to have a few practice throws and it was clear to me that it wasn't that far removed from crown green bowling which I admit to having watched on tv a bit over the years.
With everyone assembled, walkers oiled and oxygen canisters fully charged, we were asked to sign in and by drawing numbers out of a tin, we were placed into teams and were ready to play bocce.

The air was tense with anticipation and the mixed sounds of eager chatter and cracking joints. I was a member of team 7 and as only 6 teams could be playing at once, I was able to sit out the start of play and watch the competition in action. Action might be too strong a word given our relative ages but you couldn't fault the enthusiasm on display.

From my position on the sidelines I was able to snap a few pics and here is one of Debby clapping her team member who was on the other side - I won't go into the rules and setup of bocce ball here as it's hardly vital to this blog but for the purposes of this post, a fellow team member was the gentleman in the blue top to her right and the other two members of her 4 person team were at the other end of the lane and were playing at this point in the game.

I soon realised that this is a great sport for all ages and physical abilities. As long as you could propel the ball in a forwards direction, you could play. The skill with which you did this helped to get you a scoring opportunity of course but the main point of it here in the park was to have fun and mix with fellow residents. This was being done from the get go and I've rarely had so many laughs in such a short space of time.

Given the onset of arthritis and other ailments, some of the residents had peculiar throwing actions but had still developed the skills necessary to play the game to a very high standard.

I found it all very graceful and artistic at times and I hope that this old body can be so agile in a few years time. What they may have lacked in out and out mobility, they more than made up for in guile and cunning !!

I'm not suggesting that anything unsportsmanlike took place - perish the thought. It was actually a lovely balance between normal competitiveness and devil make care ball throwing.

I did keep thinking of the shuffleboard scene in Cocoon but then again, a lot of what happens here reminds me of that movie !

Debby and her team were scoring well. I was enjoying watching the play and the players and was in no rush to be called up for my turn at the plate. After my earlier practice session, I had decided to play it more like crown green bowls with a gentle low angle forward release of the ball and less like the drop/throw action used by most of the regulars.

As I said before, you can only do what you can physically do and I'm sure more would have got closer to the ground if they'd been able to do so. But as with golf, a classic technique is not always necessary to
either enjoy the game OR to achieve a good score and I was very impressed with what I was seeing.

I loved the good natured banter and friendliness and I soon decided that bocce ball was THE perfect game for all ages and sexes. At this point I'd no idea who my team mates were as I knew no-one. Being the only Brit and having an unusual name, I tend to be remembered by most people I meet here but sadly my memory lets me down everytime and I remember few names on first hearing.

I really should have gone to the sign-up sheet and tried to memorise the 3 others in my team and I WILL do that next time. Needless to say I've forgotten them already and for that, I apologise.

If the ball releasing came with many and varied techniques, then the follow throughs were just as fluid and graceful.

Many poses were held for the entire time the ball was en route and more than once I was ready to dash on court to make sure the player hadn't simply seized up and was locked in that position. Thankfuly no medical help was ever needed.

And then I was up. My team (7) was called into action and after just one 'end', we were 4-0 down. We scored on the next 'end' and the game became a little less one sided but soon it was all over and we'd lost. We didn't have long to wait and were soon up again to play another team as you got 2 games minimum. We won the next game to progress to play again but we had defeat plucked from the jaws of victory and lost this 3rd game to go out. We were 6-4 up and as it was the first to 7 and we were lying closest to the yellow ball with only one throw from the opposition left, we were feeling pretty confident of winning. That final throw not only smacked into our ball and sent it into a non scoring position at the back of the lane but it also elevated 2 of their own balls into scoring positions and with the final ball also scoring, they got the 3 points necessary to come from behind an win.

I hate bocce ball.....................

...................but I can't wait to play it again !!

What about Deb ? Well she proved she was a natural and her team won game after game and only lost when 4 teams were left...........the semi final if you like. She too can't wait to play again.

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