Monday, April 28, 2008

Cameron Sullivan: Come To Think of It -- Swimmer takes to bocce ball

Cameron Sullivan

Swimmer takes to bocce ball
Article Created: 04/28/2008 02:32:57 AM PDT
(originally published for Bay Area Newsgroup papers and online)

Upon discovering a burgeoning subculture of bocce enthusiasts last week, I have a new theme song. It goes, "I'm a bocce girl, in a bocce world."

Bocce ball may not immediately come to mind as a logical sport for a masters swimmer to add to her athletic endeavors. Running or cycling might make more sense. But despite the fact that I've been a competitive swimmer for the past seven years, I'm forging a divergent path.

Instead of triathlons, I'm taking up bocce ball.

Last week was my first encounter with a bocce ball. Now I’m hooked. I even learned that between Sunol on the west and Manteca on the east, every city is home to at least one bocce ball league; some have six or seven leagues. In other words, I should have no problem finding a team.

Trouble is, my wardrobe is all wrong.

When the members of my writers group surprised me with a birthday gathering at Campo di Bocce in Livermore last week, I arrived wearing conspicuously inappropriate attire. As our carpools unloaded in the parking lot, I noticed that the other four women among us wore slacks and flat shoes or stylish wide-heeled boots.

But my pals hadn’t told me where we were headed for the night.

Feeling spunky, I chose to dress up a bit more than usual and opted for a short skirt with three-inch-high stacked heels. High heels are about as proper on a bocce court as stilettos on a beach volleyball court.

It quickly became apparent that I would need a couple of glasses of valley wine to pull off this one. True bocce, after all, is played with a ball in one hand and a glass of wine in one the other. Or so I’m told.

My writers group consists of five dear friends, including Amy Moellering, the schools columnist for some BANG-East Bay papers, and Kathy Cordova, a Pleasanton-based author who co-hosts the “In a Word” book program on TV-30 with Herald columnist Jim Ott. Also among us are novelist Keely Parrack and gifted story teller Grace Navalta.

In the first few moments of our match, a surprisingly intense competition brewed, led by the normally mild-mannered Amy.

“Bocce is serious sport!” Amy informed us, adding that reunions with the Italian side of her family are filled with intense bocce ball matches. She even learned from the manager at Campo di Bocce that the surface of our bocce ball court was imported from Italy and that members of a USA Bocce team were in attendance at Campo di Bocce that night.

So while the rest of us were laughing and falling about all over the courts during our match, Amy nitpicked over the rules and took meticulous measurements of the distances between bocce balls and the pallino (a small metal ball that resembles a wingless version of the “snitch” in Harry Potter’s quidditch matches).

Soon I feared not so much the embarrassment of a wardrobe malfunction but that heels and a short skirt would hinder any deftness I could summon on the court, especially in the shadow of Amy’s expertise. Fortunately, it was not long before Amy acquiesced to her rules-averse friends. Measurements were approximated, balls were overthrown and a continuous crescendo of laughter erupted from our court.

When I ran into Kathy the next day, she proclaimed me the victor of our game. After humbly disagreeing with her, I soon began fantasizing that the members of the USA Bocce team may have noticed. Were there scouts among them? I wondered.

Now all I have to do is decide which of the dozens of leagues in the area to join. My only requirement is that they permit me to wear my lucky heels at the competitive level.

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