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Bocce league celebrates 25 years

March 4, 2014
By CRAIG GARRETT (Special to the Breeze) , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

It's a game of a kiss, one ball nudging that close to another in a perfect roll.

But bocce is equal parts passion and emotion, sometimes heated, a game with a history dating to the Romans and where players sometimes express whoops of joy or disappointment with equal and loud vigor, depending on the positioning of the bocce ball and the temperament of the player.

At the furthest extreme, an older player was so upset over a bocce ruling that police were summoned to quell the shouting, mostly in Italian expletives, observers recalled Saturday at a Cape bocce tournament.

Article Photos


Cape Coral residents and Goodfellas League members Saverio Racanelli and Maria Savarino share a moment Saturday during the 25th anniversary gatheringat Veterans Park.

"Some of us are out for blood," said Maria Savarino, smiling at the player's passion, but herself a serious bocce player celebrating at the 25th anniversary of the Goodfellas Bocce League at Veterans Park. Savarino, in fact, earned a gold medal in bocce in a Florida senior Olympics tournament.

"It gets pretty competitive, for sure," she said shrugging. "It's mostly simple fun."

To those outside the game, bocce (said bochi or bocha) looks like a hybrid of lawn bowling and billiards, rolling straight shots or using playing edges to bank 2-pound plaster balls inside the rectangle play surface. You score points by rolling a larger bocce ball closest to a smaller ball called the pallino or the jack, the only white ball on the surface. Really, the game is more like chess or curling or marbles, as players plan ahead as the game advances.

"Definitely an art," said Pete Bono, a retired Lee County sheriff's deputy and bocce player. "It helps, but you don't even have to be Italian."

Certainly, Americans of Italian ancestry were represented Saturday. The Romans did refine the game, which spread over Europe and into America like soccer did and as successive generations moved about. The Cape league is quick to note its players are represented by every national stripe and age. In fact, leagues seek younger players.

You'd just need the competitive fire and patience to get better, said Rudy Diaz, the league's president. Certainly men and women were counted equally Saturday. The men's side just invited its first woman player.

"Treated perfectly," said Barbara Devine, the woman player and the league's secretary/treasurer. "(These) men are absolute gentlemen."

Bocce players Saturday were randomly paired, men and women, assigned to a court of about 90 feet in length and roughly 8-10 feet wide. The playing surface is mostly pumiced clay, but some courts are indoor/outdoor carpet or asphalt. Points can be measured in centimeters. An opposing player can destroy a skilled placement with an aggressive roll. Seeking to dislodge an opposing player's ball near the pallino, the opposition player fires his bocce ball into the resting balls BAM! Bocce balls rain down like artillery shells at Gettysburg. The veterans seem amused, for in the beginning they ducked, too.

"It's what we do. It's fun," said Andre A. Panetta, a Cape realtor, bocce player and president of the Cape Coral Bocce Association.

Several leagues play in Cape parks, each groomed and manicured to near perfection. There are several hundred registered players.

The real camaraderie of the anniversary tournament was a noon picnic after the scores were tallied, recognitions conferred, said Rudy Diaz, Goodfellas president and event organizer.

"We got ribeye, salmon and chicken, sausage and peppers," he said, counting the menu items on his fingers. "We got everything. And it only costs five dollars. This is a great day shared with friends together for many years."



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