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f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

September 16, 2005

bocce advocacy

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 3:58 pm

Long before your Editor became a Haiku Advocate, or even a

Consumer Advocate, I was a Bocce Advocate — or, perhaps

more accurately, a Bocce Missionary, bringing the message

of its joys and benefits to my non-Italian-American friends.

In fact, as a summer playground director almost forty bocce balls b&w

years ago, while still in high school, I dragged a set of

bocce balls to our playground in Rochester, NY, and

taught a group of African-, Hispanic- and Italo-American

youths how to play. They all loved it and we immediately

started an intramural league. I’ve also introduced the game

to all of my adult friends, and virtually all of them — and their

children and dogs — instantly love the game. I’ve given bocce

ball sets to a few close friends for special events, such as

marriages (the family that bocces together stays together!



bocce balls —

three generations choose sides


tiny check For me, the best thing about bocce is that it is easy to

learn, yet takes skills that can be nurtured and improved

for a lifetime, while having a good, competitive, usually

jocular time.

Dictionaries tell you that bocce is “A game of Italian origin similar

to lawn bowling that is played with wooden balls on a long narrow

court covered with fine gravel.” And the U. S. Bocce Federation

promotes an “official” brand of bocce played on such courts, with

leagues and championships that follow very strict rules. Regulation

bocce courts can be found all over the Northeast and wherever there

are enclaves of Italo-Americans.

Nonetheless, the Giacalones — and most pisano familes that I

know — put the lawn back into bocce. We play on grass in

backyards or parks, and sometimes on beaches. As the

USBF history page notes:

“Throughout history innumerable Bocce games have

been played in the streets, alleys, squares and country

greens of every European country and in North and

South America. Lovers of Bocce will play wherever

there is adequate space available.”


If you do not already know, I hope you’re curious and are asking,

“What is Bocce?” The USBF intro states:

The purpose of the game is to roll the bocce, a 4- inch

ball weighing about three pounds, as close as possible

to the pallino, a 1- inch ball which is rolled down the

alley first. The bocce coming closest to the pallino scores.

. . . The game requires: good judgement of distance, the

ability to size up a situation immediately, a good eye to

spot contours and rough spots in the alley, and the proper

psychological frame of mind.”

That proper “frame of mind” should include a willingness to play

by the rules — while complaining that your opponents are cheating

— and the ability to enjoy playful razzing and being razzed. Although

most of my female friends normally find “male” sarcasm intolerable

in all but the smallest doses, they seem to become instant experts

in it when playing bocce, giving even better than they get and very

often winning the game, too.

backyard bocce –

tonight we’re

the noisy neighbors

girls against guys —

who knew

white wine improves your aim?



Even in parts of the country where winter brings snow, there is still

plenty of time for playing bocce. When you purchase a set, you’ll

only get a copy of the “official rules.” So, I have dug up and posted

a copy of my Official Giacalone Family Informal Bocce Rules. [click

on the tab at the lower righthand corner of the document to enlarge it]

Although filled with lame attempts at humor, the rules are fairly clearly

spelled out.

bocci When buying a set, please don’t get balls

smaller than 109 mm, unless your kids need the

smaller ones to fit their little hands. It’s worth the

extra price to have “real” full-sized balls for the adults.

You may contest my politics or religious beliefs, but I don’t think

you’ll disagree with my faith in the healing power of bocce.

BaciLogo My Grandpa Bart and the other old Italian guys often said “kissa the palino,” when a bocce ball rolled up slowly and nestled right up against the palino (the small ball that is the target; sometimes called a jack). I did not know as a kid, that they were making a translingual pun — the Italian word for kiss is bacio, and the plural is baci. Click here for the very romantic story of the first chocolate kisses — Baci from Perugina/Nestle.

tiny check Sad to say, none of my Honored Guest Poets seems to have

written any bocce haiku or senryu. Barry George has, however,

penned poems featuring a number of other ball games:

fall twilight–

my brother going out


rainy playground–
a patch of new grass
hides the softball


fall’s first chill —

the football

bounces louder

dribbling a ball

to the rim’s lure–

April twilight

by Barry George from

“fall’s first chill” – A New Resonance 2; Haiku Happens 1998

“fall twilight” – A New Resonance 2; Snapshots #8

“dribbling a ball” – Snapshots #10

rainy playground” – tiny words (April 8, 2002)

bocce party tonight —

first, a round of

pooper scooping

[Sept. 16, 2005]

update (8 PM): I knew I could count on ed markowski to

quickly add to our bocce collection. Here’s his first offering:

the english kid

i tell him again

it’s not a croquet ball



  1. david,
    again from work. this time on my lunchbreak. your bocce posting is just
    great, as are the poems. brings back
    so many memories of watching my uncles,
    dad, and grandfather play the noble game
    outside of buddie’s pizza joint on the
    east side of detriot. thanks so much.

    the english kid / i tell him again / it’s
    not a croquet ball

    Comment by ed markowski — September 16, 2005 @ 8:43 pm

  2. Edward, I knew I could count on you to make up for our bocce poetry scarcity.  Thank you for your enthusiasm for both bocce and haiku!

    Comment by David Giacalone — September 16, 2005 @ 9:09 pm

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