Forget the sport of kings, bocce is the sport of emperors. Combining strategy, competition, light exercise and, usually, food and drink, the sport has been popular since Egyptians played it in the age of the pharaohs. The Roman emperor, Augustus, and numerous other Roman statesmen and emperors played.
The game became so popular in Europe among all classes that the Republic of Venice and the Catholic Church condemned it in the 16th century.
Today, bocce is enjoying a resurgence as seniors and their great-grandchildren enjoy its strategy, light exercise and suitability as an accompaniment to other social activities, such as eating and drinking together.
There once were two best friends named Paul and Frank. They were two of the biggest fans of bocce in New England. Their days revolved around bocce. They discussed bocce strategy in the winter, and they examined the time they scored during the last season. They played over 60 games a year. They even agreed that whoever died first would try to come back and tell the other if there was bocce in heaven.
One summer night, Paul passed away in his sleep after winning a tough bocce game earlier in the evening. He died a happy man.
A few nights later, his buddy, Frank, awoke to the sound of Paul's voice from beyond.
"Paul, is that you?" Frank asked.
"Of course it’s me," Paul replied.
"This is unbelievable!" Frank exclaimed, "So tell me, is there bocce in heaven?"
"Well, I have some good news and some bad news for you. Which do you want to hear first?"
"Tell me the good news first."
"Well, the good news is that there is bocce in heaven, Frank."
"Oh, that is wonderful! So what could possibly be the bad news?"
"You're scheduled to play tomorrow night."
What Is Bocce?
Learning how to play bocce is easy. The game requires only average eyesight and coordination and strategic skills, which makes it perfect for new people or seniors who may not see or move as well as they used to.
This video by Major League Bocce explains the basics, as well as giving you a hint why the game is so popular as a leisure-time activity.
Why Play Bocce?
The primary reason is that it’s fun. Other benefits include:
- Vitamin D. Bocce’s usually an outdoor game (although bars now offer it indoors), so a couple of games, and you’ve got all the sunshine-derived Vitamin D you need for a while. Do wear your sunscreen, and avoid playing between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s strength is at its greatest.
- Brain training. Bocce requires strategic planning to get your balls closest to the pallino or jack and keep your opponent’s balls away. Using your mind to solve these type of problems helps maintain brain health and prevent dementia.
- Coordination. Unlike sports where muscle power is more important than finesse, the game requires precise coordination.
- Exercise. Walking up and down the court provides some light exercise, suitable for almost anyone.
A man goes to the confessional. "Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned."
"What is your sin, my child?" the priest asks back.
"Well," the man starts, "I used some horrible language this week, and I feel absolutely terrible."
"When did you do use this awful language?" said the priest.
"I was playing bocce and rolled my first shot that looked like it was going within a foot of the pallino, but all of a sudden, it turned toward the sideboard."
"Is that when you swore?"
"No, Father." Said the man. "As it was rolling, a small dog ran out of the bushes and grabbed the pallino in his mouth and began to run away."
"Is THAT when you swore?" asked the priest again.
"Well, no," said the man, "You see, as the dog was running, an eagle came down out of the sky, grabbed the dog in his talons and began to fly away!"
"Is THAT when you swore?" asked the amazed priest.
"No, not yet." The man replied. "As the eagle carried the dog away in his claws, it flew toward the bocce court, and as it passed over the court, the dog dropped the pallino."
"Did you swear THEN?" asked the now-impatient priest.
"No, because when the ball fell, it rolled against the sideboard, bounced off, rolled by one of my bocce balls, and stopped within two inches of my opponent’s bocce ball."
"Did you swear THEN?" asked the impatient priest.
The man started to further explain, "No, I picked up my ball for the next shot..."
"You missed the spock, didn't you?" sighed the priest.
- Stress relief. Enjoyable, leisure-time activities relieve stress, which can actually help you live longer.
- Socialization. Playing with friends or acquaintances relieves stress, but in addition, interaction with other humans is good for humans. It strengthens your immune systems, improves your mental health, reduces the risk of dementia, and may help you live longer.
- Flexibility. Bending to pick up and toss your ball requires a bit of a stretch and increases flexibility.
- Confidence. When you make a good throw, other players are sure to compliment you. Compliments not only make you feel good, they may make you play better.
- Better mood. Whether you lose or win, you’re spending time outdoors with people you like, so you’re sure to smile and laugh.
- Mindfulness. Bocce takes as much concentration and focus as any mindfulness exercise to reduce stress.
Play with Us
The folks at Sugar Hill Retirement Community are big fans of bocce. As soon as the intensity of the sun’s rays diminish, we’ll gather at the bocce court. One of the guys will grill some brats, hot dogs or burgers during the game. And, yes, we do enjoy liquid refreshments, too. It’s a great way to get some exercise while socializing with friends.