Thursday, March 31, 2011

Brush with Greatness

We felt lucky to have found a parking spot so close to the tournament planned for Girard Park in Lafayette, LA.

The row of trash containers alerted us to the size of the crowd the day's event's planners expected.

As we approached the location of the playing field, we caught snipets of conversations about the event and their preparations for it.

"Looks like the courts (left) are in good shape," observed one person.

"Bernard asked me to team up with one of his friends. I've been playing for two days," confided another to his friend.

"I heard they're exprecting teams from Washington and Texas," noted a local competitor.

The person on the left in the photo caught our attention because of his unusual headgear. We would later learn that both people in the photo were participants in the tournament.

Another participant was this bare-footed gentleman.

"He's an interesting guy. I've seen him play in his underwear when the temperature was 104 degrees," reported a woman in a nonchalant manner to her friend.

Now before you begin wondering if this is leading to "April Fool!" let me put that to rest.

Shown here with yours truly is Bernard Champey (left), mul-tiple Boule Lyonnaise champion and world champion in the sport of petanque ("pah-tonk"). Monsieur Champey, who spoke very little English, was kind enough to pose for this photo.

The game of petanque, developed during the 18th century around Lyon, France, can be played on almost any terrain; most players actually prefer an uneven terrain to make it more challenging.

Play begins by one participant tossing a "jack," a plastic ball (yellow ball in photo), at least 12.5 meters from the player. The purpose then is to get throw your boules (hollow metal balls) as close to the jack as possible. In doubles, each person throws three boules.

Though similar to bocce, petanque has these differences: Bocce balls are usually rolled palm up, petanque balls tossed palm down (shown in these three photos), so they get backspin upon release.

Bocce players take steps before throwing, petanque players stand still (feet together, in a small starting circle).

Bocce has different variations as to court size and layout. The court should be smooth and flat; some rules call for wooden sideboards to make it an enclosed area.

Petanque can be played on almost any terrain; most players actually prefer an uneven terrain to make it more challenging. Enthusiasts like to convince those who are designing a larger playing area not to stick to six neat independent rectangles, but rather a plain open area that fits into the surroundings. A tree here and there makes it so much more enjoyable.

(Note the rough surface as the measurement is being taken in one of the games.)

Among the teams competing was the defending champions from LeCannet in south of France. Kate got to talking to some of the participants from Washington State (far left in the photo, player from Seattle and player from Walla Walla, far right).

I thought I had wanted to learn curling, but now petanque is at the top of my list.

(By the way, the crowd consisted mostly of players and Kate and I; the rows of pink trash cans were left over from the 12th Annual Komen Acadiana Race for the Cure held the day before.)

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