The pétanque season just started and soon there will be a flurry of tournaments all over the Bay Area.
Pétanque is known to be a comradely game, but the competitive nature of some individuals can sometimes morph a debonair looking doctor Jekyll into a Mr. Hyde.
Unlike the easygoing doctor, Mr. Hyde is unwilling to concede a single point without a fight. He will insist on having each point assessed and authenticated, no matter how it looks.
It is his prerogative, but when this happens too often it can spoil the mood and the pace of the game.
Losing against friendly opponents never dampens anyone’s spirit and you are more than willing to shake their hands after a hard fought game.
The same cannot be said about contentious players.
Some individuals on the other hand, will always display a sunny disposition and allow for a friendly game.
This is my kind of people, because after all pétanque is only a game and the fate of the free world doesn’t depend on the outcome of a single game or a tournament.
I daresay that I am familiar with pétanque, and I am also acquainted with many players’ idiosyncrasies.
Some people need to carefully survey the field before committing to play.
They will scrutinize the ground, plug some holes and memorize every pebble. Does this elaborate preparation guaranty success? I doubt it!
So why strain everybody’s patience with unnecessary rituals?
Timid players don’t seem to be able to play without a lengthy consultation with their teammates. It reminds me of generals too fearful to launch an attack.
After watching these people, you feel like counterattacking with a bayonet charge.
Some puritan players will insist on absolute silence and a ban on walking when they officiate. I know that it is the polite thing to do, but are we in church or on a playground? Let’s remain cool about the whole shebang.
Some people will crouch and some will stand. Some will use a Zen-like concentration before shooting. Some will play long, some will play short and some will display an unintended Nazi salute after throwing their boules.
This is pétanque and it is fine and dandy, but winning is not everything.
What matters is the high that remains after the game is over.
And you cannot achieve this high without being surrounded by people who care more about the game than its outcome.
To paraphrase Woody Allen, winning is nice but “There are worse things in life than losing a game. Have you ever spent an evening with an insurance salesman?”