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I was first introduced to the very casual front yard game of bocce ball during the spring semester of my freshman year of college at the fraternity house. I trudged up the front walkway on a Thursday or Friday afternoon as a beaten college student after a long and brutal day of classes. I was tired and hot, looking for anyone at the house to join me in starting the weekend off on the right foot and forgetting about school for a while.
This is when I came upon two of my fraternity brothers in the front lawn — both barefoot, shirtless, a cig hanging from their lips, beers in one hand, and in the others were brightly colored plastic balls, about the size of baseballs. They looked like they were on the set of a photo shoot for the Ralph Lauren catalogue, as long as you take away the beers, cigarettes, unkempt lawn, and the sloppy physiques of 19-year-olds trapped in the bodies of middle-aged men who had given up on keeping in shape the minute they graduated college.
It was my kind of scene. “What the hell are you guys playing?” I asked. “Bocce ball, dumbass,” one of them was able to mutter from across the yard mid-bocce toss while doing the muffled cigarette-in-mouth voice without moving his lips. “Never heard of it,” I responded. “Then why don’t you lose the stupid backpack and come play?” one of them fired back.
I lost the backpack, cracked a beer, and spent the remainder of the day’s sunlight bocce-ing, as we called it. It started off casually enough, just soft lobs and smooth rollers within the confines of the front lawn. Then, as the beer went, so did our retirement home-esque approach to the game. It went from leisurely to competitive, and then from competitive to downright aggressive. We were doing off-the-house ricochets, front to back yard heaves, all without regard for anyone who was in the area and could have potentially taken a bocce to the temple. It got dangerous.
Now, that’s not how the game is intended to be played (it’s often played on sand, actually), but that’s how we played it, and we had a blast. I’ve enjoyed the game ever since, even though my reckless approach to this more country club-suitable game is behind me.
Pick up a set, but watch out for bystanders.