I first met Marco Foyot a few days ago at a little barbecue sponsored by the Valley of the Moon Pétanque Club and organized by Shannon Bowman.
I had read about him but did not know what to expect since the man portrayed in the media is often markedly different from the real person.
When I first saw him I was surprised by the sheer size of the man. He is a big guy!
I would guestimate him to be at least a six-footer and weighing 250 pounds, probably more.
When he walks into a room he usually towers above the other people, especially me.
Unlike some snotty stars, he is approachable, friendly and eager to talk about his passion: pétanque. He is a pétanque preacher.
He is quite good at it and you can tell by his demeanor that he is used to make speeches and public appearances.
Even though he knows very little English, he is quite articulate when speaking in his native tongue, and most of the people who don’t speak French get the gist of what he is saying.
He is passionate about pétanque and makes an excellent ambassador for this unique sport.
On Sunday, in Sonoma, Marco was definitely the star of the show. His white mane and his stature set him immediately apart.
Like on all of his North American tour appearances he gave “pétanque clinics” and since I could use some advice myself, I signed up for one of his classes.
When playing pétanque, Marco stresses the right stand (crouching when pointing and standing when shooting) and extending your arm when throwing a boule.
Especially when shooting, many people have a tendency to “undershoot’ so that their ball lands in front of the target boule instead of hitting it squarely (“au fer“).
The main reason: people fail to raise their arm high enough.
Marco stressed the importance and the advantage of a “Devant de Boule” (boule in front) versus the ineffective “boule derrière” (boule behind the cochonnet).
With the help of some clever props, he demonstrated the “demi-portée” (half-lob) and the “portée”.
The “Half-Lob” is when a boule lands halfway from “Le Rond” (the starting circle) and the cochonnet, and rolls towards the cochonnet.
“La Portée” is when the boule lands into the last third of the distance between Le Rond and the cochonnet and rolls gently toward the cochonnet.
“La Plombée” is a handy shot using a high lob to land your boule close to the cochonnet. The forward momentum of the boule is deadened by its impact and the boule stops almost immediately.
Marco demonstrated his uncanny ability by throwing his boule about 12 feet in the air and landing it about three inches from the cochonnet.
He took well-deserved bows.
He also demonstrated the way to spin a ball when opposing boules block the path to the cochonnet; the thrown boule spins either to the right or the left and stops in the close vicinity of the cochonnet.
With a few well-turned shots, Marco demonstrated why he is one of the best players in the world.
Since Marco speaks very little English, he was assisted by his friend (“mon frère”) Bernard Martin and by local Robert Dunn who (to my surprise) did an excellent translating job. Bravo Robert!
The class ended around noon and everybody gathered around the picnic tables to share sausages and sauerkraut prepared by chef Dan Fluhardy.
We were supposed to celebrate “Oktober Fest” but I saw only one single guy wearing “lederhosen”. A pity!
At this point, I need to say how much I admire the cooperation shown by all the VOMPC members. It seemed that everybody lent a hand to make this event a success.
Patrick Vaslet whose excellent French and English made him a natural escort accompanied the awesome-twosome everywhere throughout their stay.
Frank Pipal, Peter Wellington, Mike Cooper, Joe La Torre, Shannon Bowman, Carlos Couto and Etienne Rijkheer also participated in one way or the other.
Let’s not forget the instrumental role of Ed Porto who fought hard to bring Marco Foyot to the United States.
Thank you Ed for bringing Marco to the US.
Marco’s grueling fifty-five days (September 27-November 8) tour of North America is not for the faint-hearted.
It started in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and will end in Amelia Island, Florida.
It is extremely demanding and despite the appearances extremely taxing. It takes a lot of heart and stamina to bring it to a successful conclusion
I am pretty sure that mister Foyot will be glad to return to France to take a well-deserved rest.
I think that Marco’s visit to Sonoma was a resounding success and did a lot to promote pétanque in North America.
We need more men like him to make pétanque in America as common as apple-pie.
Merci monsieur Foyot for a job well done or as the locals would say, “give me five dude!”
Alain La Foudre
PS: To look at pictures of this event, turn the sound on, click on the “Home” link at the top of the page, and click again on “My photos” located on the right side of the page.
Kudos to Tamara for taking many shots of this series. If I am in the the picture, you can be sure that Tamara took it!