Pétanque tournament this weekend

by Mary Tutwiler

In the grand tradition of French lawn mean you don't know what lawn bowling is? Think small towns in southern France, the town square shaded by huge Plane trees, occupied by a handful of old men wearing berets. Smell the anise scent as they sip pastis out of small Picardy glasses, and if you listen, between the stories told in a rolling Provincal accent, you will hear the ping of metal balls chinking against one another. Let your shoes crunch on the crushed gravel as you walk over to watch.

Pétanque is something like horseshoes, only with more variables. The basics are that there are two teams, consisting of one, two or three players each. The team that wins the coin toss draws a circle about the size of a large Hoola Hoop on the playing pitch. There's no court per say in Pétanque, it can be played on grass, dirt, sand or gravel, and there's no real shape to the pitch. Rough terrain adds interest, trees are acceptable obstacles.

The starting team steps into the circle and tosses out the jack, a small ball. That becomes the target. Then one player from the first team throws his boule, or metal ball, trying to get it as close to the jack as possible. The other team steps up and starts throwing, attempting to get closer to the jack and knock the first team's boule away. When they've thrown all their boules, team one comes back to clean up. Add up the points, winner sets up his circle at the site of the jack and throws it out to begin the next round.

While the concept is simple, leave it to the French to come up with extremely complex rules regarding how a player must keep his feet while he throws, the distance the jack must land from the circle, what is dead ball space and other minutia which is the basis for the loud Gallic arguments and family feuds.

If Pétanque sounds like your game (no running, no jumping, easy to play with a glass in your other hand), the Alliance Française de Lafayette is holding the Second Annual Acadiana Pétanque Tournament in Girard Park this weekend. The tournament begins with a practice round on Friday, March 12, 4 to 7 p.m. On Saturday, March 13,  8 to 9 a.m., there will be a demonstration, practice and  registration. The actual competition begins at 9 and continues until completion. Participants are asked to bring lawn chairs.  Food and drink to be sold by Poupart's Bakery. On Sunday, there will be a picnic and casual Pétanque. For more info, go to the AFL Web site.