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  • Michael Iannucci

A SIMPLE GAME OF BOCCE




When I was a kid growing up in South Philadelphia I used to watch the old Italian guys play bocce on a make shift court on the sidewalk. A rectangle made out of wood...some dirt...and viola’...bocce. I didn’t understand the game then...still don’t. But those guys would be out there...speaking Italian, maybe a glass of homemade wine (yep...me, my grandfather and a grape press in the cellar...I was the Robert Mondavi of South Philadelphia) and just enjoying community.


A few weeks ago my husband and I hit the Whole Foods on 6th Ave. across from Bryant Park. I picked up a few groceries...including a dolce de leche donut (don’t judge...I didn’t eat the whole thing...I split it with my hubby). We headed across the street to sit and enjoy our sweet treat. It was around lunch hour so the park was packed. But we happened upon a little table and two chairs right next to a couple of bocce courts. Bocce courts in Bryant Park! Who knew?


We sat and watched and were fascinated by the variety of players. While we were there we saw an elderly Hasidic Jew, a younger yuppie type, an Asian, and a couple of African American gents. A cross reference of people...different backgrounds...different demographics...different beliefs. But watching these guys play...together...all conferring over what their next move should be I was so taken.


Maybe that’s what sports does...it evens the field. Although you wouldn’t know it when you hear the trash talking and watch the body blows of professional sports.


This was something to behold. A microcosm of the world. This disparate group of people... on a lunch break...playing a game and forming community.


With all that is going on the world today it’s hard to see the good...the beauty...BUT IT’S THERE. On that bocce court there were no religious rants going on. No racial slurs being tossed. No generational divide.


We stayed well after our donut was gobbled up because we were so impressed by what we were witnessing.


New York City can be a tough place to survive in day to day. But one of its most salient qualities is its diversity. All the different ethnic neighborhoods...all the different ethnic foods...all the different houses of worship.

Yes, people can be rude, in a hurry here. But watching that group in Bryant Park gave me hope. If we can shake a hand at a game well played why can’t that same hand reach out to accept someone who may worship differently, love differently, eat differently, dress differently, talk differently.


There was a lesson to be learned that day. There is a commonality in all of us. A wanting to come together without judgement. Just enjoying the simple pleasure of being in a park, communing with others, and clearing the mind playing a simple game of bocce.


Maybe we need to build a bocce court at the United Nations. Or the White House.


The likelihood of me becoming a bocce champion is remote. But I can strive to be a champion at looking past cultural stereotypes. Breaking through the safety net of my little world. I may live on one...and a small one at that...but no man is an island. We need to seek out diversity in order to live a fuller, richer, more interesting life.


And if you can’t make a trip to Bryant Park on a lunch break...that fuller, richer, kinder, more accepting world is right in our own back yard...no bocce necessary.

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