That’s right, sports fans: boules. What, you don’t know the game? Well, ahem, to be fair, neither did I until our new church invited us to a “friendly” tournament of boules (pronounced “bul”). I was quickly schooled in the essentials of this ubiquitous French sport, a very, very old game apparently loved by all Frenchmen, and by really old, patient Frenchmen in particular.
In the French version, or pétanque, players toss a little target ball the size of a big shooter marble down a long, hopefully flat and grassy rectangular area. Then, armed with little cannon balls that fit in your hand (maybe the size of a big orange or small grapefruit?), players take turns hefting the balls toward the target ball, in hopes of getting closest. Sort of like horseshoes or washers. But, like croquet, you can knock the other player’s ball away to take the closest spot yourself. You can also hit the little target ball and knock it closer to a teammate’s ball. Really, this little lawn game is a bit addictive, and definitely more compelling than it sounds. It seems to inspire an intensity in players that rivals the final swimming heats with Lochte and Phillips, the tension building as balls accumulate around the little target.
As Wikipedia has it, this game is probably as old any other Olympic game, with origins in Greece and Rome. It’s egalitarian, so that any little country could take up the hefty metal balls and invest in a team. If ping-pong and mixed doubles badminton can still claim a spot on the medal roster, then why not boules? And in fact, there is an organization, Confédération Mondiale des Sports de Boules, actually created for lobbying the Olympic committee to add boules, though unsuccessfully thus far.
I think I know what this sport needs to take over the edge to Olympic glory: wild outfits. Take curling, for instance. This IS an Olympic sport, and it’s even a relative of the game of boules. Why does it not live in the relative obscurity of boules? Obviously it must be the uniforms. Folks couldn’t stop talking about curling last winter Olympics in Vancouver, and part of it was thanks to Norway: these uniforms were the talk of the water cooler!