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Petanque

There's Bocce and Boules, which, as you so well know, are all variations of Bowls. But did you also know that there's Petanque, which is pretty much the same as Boules, which is only more or less the same as Bocce because you don't really need a special court. And that, my friend, is what makes the game so attractive to us free and playful spirits.

Petanque is a modern version of a game with a very long history. According to the British Petanque Society: "Two balls and a jack were unearthed in the sarcophagus of an Egyptian Prince of the 52nd Century B.C. Thus there is archaeological evidence that a form of p├ętanque was played over seventy centuries ago."

The basic rules are relatively easy to follow. You throw a little ball (traditionally, wooden), and then you throw bigger balls (steel), trying to land as close as possible to the little one. Should your bigger ball happen to knock one of your opponent's bigger balls away from the little ball, this is also good.

It's one of those games that can be played by anyone who can throw, almost anywhere. Because it has such a long history and so many variations, it's a rich opportunity for you to make up your own. Who's to say you can't play it with, say, marbles, or snowballs even?

Junkyard Bowling as an Artistic Arithmo-Political Statement

The world premiere of Junkyard Bowling took place Thursday, August 4, in a hallway at the LA Convention Center, during the SIGGRAPH 2005 Conference. The Junkyard Sports event, produced by the Ludica (a game design cooperative) Game Atelier, also included a similarly sweetly significant game of Junkyard Golf. The significance? That we were playing with junk (posters, bags, paper cups, a Rubik's Cube and other miscellaneous exhibitor bric-a-brac) at probably one of the highest of high technology events. It wasn't so much that we were trying to make a particular point, but rather a counterpoint.

Junkyard Bowling was created collaboratively by whoever happened to be in the hallway at the time. The design, manufacture, and layout of the "pins" turned out to be a work of art in its own right. In searching for an object heavy enough to knock our pins over, we came upon a Rubik's Cube of all but perfect heft. Then someone noticed that the cube looked very much like a die, as in one of a pair of dice. Then someone put numbers on the die. And the rest is history. Junkyard Bowling. Played with a die. Your score, the number of pins you knock down, multiplied by the number on the die when it finally comes to rest. And oh, the unanticipated glee of it all. The arithmetic delight of scoring a potential 56 for a single throw (we were playing nine-pin bowling), the subtle properties of the rolling cube bouncing off the wall and into the remaining pins, and, best of all, the unparalleled joy of being part of a collaboratively and spontaneously contrived work of play, made out of junk, in the hallway of the LA Convention Center, during a conference dedicated to heightening high technology!

Playground Football

It's called "Playground Football," though we Statesiders would probably call it "Playground Soccer." We might also find it a bit, shall we say, arcane in its use of UK-specific playground language, and rather cheekily written, tongue-in-wise. But it is nevertheless something of a classic, and gives us an insight into the spirit of Junkyard Sports in its native manifestation.

"The object," writes Christopher Brookmyre, "is to force the ball between two large, unkempt piles of jackets, in lieu of goalposts. These piles may grow or shrink throughout the match, depending on the number of participants and the prevailing weather. As the number of players increases, so shall the piles. Each jacket added to the pile by a new addition to a side should be placed on the inside, nearest the goalkeeper, thus reducing the target area. It is also important that the sleeve of one of the jackets should jut out across the goalmouth, as it will often be claimed that the ball went 'over the post' and it can henceforth be asserted that the outstretched sleeve denotes the innermost part of the pile and thus the inside of the post. The on-going reduction of the size of the goal is the responsibility of any respectable defence and should be undertaken conscientiously with resourcefulness and imagination."

Mr. Brookmyre goes on, and on. "There are no pitch markings," he explains, a "pitch" being what we might call a "field" or "play area." "Instead," he continues, "physical objects denote the boundaries, ranging from the most common - walls and buildings - to roads or burns. Corners and throw-ins are redundant where bylines or touchlines are denoted by a two-storey building or a six-foot granite wall. Instead, a scrum should be instigated to decide possession. This should begin with the ball trapped between the brickwork and two opposing players, and should escalate to include as many team members as can get there before the now egg-shaped ball finally emerges, drunkenly and often with a dismembered foot and shin attached. At this point, goalkeepers should look out for the player who takes possession of the escaped ball and begins bearing down on goal, as most of those involved in the scrum will be unaware that the ball is no longer amidst their feet. The goalkeeper should also try not to be distracted by the inevitable fighting that has by this point broken out."

This wonderful little piece reminds us of the inventiveness, as well as the peculiar "rough-and-tumble" delights of playground play, at least as it was, and might still be played, on grounds other than those in the US Schools. For us, it is a perhaps an especially nostalgic reminder, for we have "progressively" outlawed both the tumble and the rough from our playgrounds, and, in the name of a national obsession called "No Child Left Behind," are industriously exploring ways of eliminating both the play and the grounds.

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