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Winning and losing on the bocce ball court

June 26th, 2014 2:02 pm by Tony Casey

Winning and losing on the bocce ball court

Tony Casey

I’m not an expert on bocce, but I promise you I’m willing to learn.

A recent Saturday evening trip with my wife to meet a pal at the bocce ball court behind Depot Street Brewing in Jonesborough didn’t just give me another idea for those times when I’m deciding what to do when I’m trying be social and have a good time, but more so provided me with a “Plan A” option. I think I’m hooked.

The final tally wasn’t good. My team of two, consisting of your humble narrator and a more skilled bocce-ist co-worker of mine, ended up losing, but the positives were two-fold. Though it wasn’t reflected in the near “skunking” we took, we stood up against our extremely friendly opponents like we knew what we were doing, rolling the stone-like balls down the court with the grace of a professional, regardless where they would end up.

As are many other ball games, bocce is about distance. Points are awarded to teams by which team’s balls, designated by color, are closest to target ball, or pallino, as it’s called. While you’d think alcohol would be a hindrance to accuracy, well, you’re probably right, but it’s not a hindrance to conversation and atmosphere.

The fun, boy, oh, boy, the fun we had in taking our loss. If you haven’t been, Depot Street provides the perfect late evening venue for people who want to drink their locally crafted brews while striking up conversation, pet a few dogs, throw a few stones and most likely make some new friends. Though my head was in the game the entire time, taking turns with my partner and our opponents, what was more enjoyable was the atmosphere.

Soft outdoor lighting and comfortable seating, tables and chairs, several non-bocce players taking part in the board game Pylos, and the mood was set for a good time.

There was no cost to play the game. All a team, which could consist of as anywhere from two to four players, competitors, or people who like to do something while they drink. It would be in poor taste to go to Depot Street just for the bocce, so it’s highly recommended, by me, for a variety of reasons, for of-age players to carry a pint glass with them as they make their way up and down the court. Because the brewery has several craft beers, many with clever train-related names, one could sample their way from light to dark, from flavor tone to flavor tone, all while keeping their competitive nature at bay with a friendly game of bocce, an Italian game.

It’s safe to say our opponents had teamed up on a few novice bocce players before, but they were extremely patient and helpful in explaining some of the easy basics of the game, all while taking up the duty to clear our any divots or long-lasting marks in the fine gravel game surface with a quick rake and a sweeping.

My partner also served as a patient mentor of the game, helping measure the distances between balls with his eyes and reminding when it was my turn, but not holding back wisecracks like, “How do you say, ‘you (messed) up’ in Italian?” after I took the liberty to remove easy points from our total with a not-so-well-executed throw.

Because bocce can be such a conversation-based game, it would seem annoying to think a train rolling through might stop the barrage of friendly smack talk and jokery that takes place, but at such a train-related business, the passing of a train just a few feet behind the bocce ball court was just what the head brewer ordered. Several phones popped up to catch the train as it passed by, something I don’t think would happen if it wasn’t a welcomed experience.

Freight Hopper, Loose Caboose, Ride The Rails Ale, Whistlestop Whit, Eurail Gold and the beer the filled my class that evening, Roundabout Rye Stout, were the options available to all who joined in on the local, laid-back social event in Jonesborough. With evening and weekend hours, times when I like to do the vast majority of my drinking and beer game playing, I can’t wait to take another beating on the bocce ball court in Jonesborough, hopefully learning something along the way and getting more, or, perhaps less, accurate.

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