The Ancient Game Lives On in New Mexico

Sep 12, 2018 895

Bocce. The game is ancient. It dates back to 5000 BC, at least. And although it originated in Egypt, it’s considered thoroughly Italian. That’s because when Greek colonists introduced it to the Roman Empire, the game put down some serious roots in what is now modern Italy. It quickly became the chosen sport of nobility and statesmen, then spread throughout the general population.

Over time it developed into its present model, which was brought to the United States by Italian immigrants in the mid to late 1800s. Bocce was not only a way to preserve an element of the culture they left behind, but also a means of maintaining a sense of community and camaraderie.

“And it’s still a matter of community and camaraderie – not to mention great fun,” says Nancy Brakensiek, founder, coordinator, and capo of the Ball Blaster Babes, the all-women’s league she created more than a year ago that challenges the myth that Bocce is a game for old Italian men. “No, you don't have to be an elderly Italian man in a park in New Jersey to enjoy a rousing game of bocce ball,” reads an online advertisement for bocce ball sets. The line could have been written by Nancy herself, a bocce junkie who is neither elderly, nor Italian, nor male. But, she’s a force to be reckoned with on the court.

Nancy came up with the Ball Blaster Babes idea when she saw other women showing up regularly at the courts for practice, and to play in the monthly tournaments sponsored by the Italian Cultural Club. “They played well. They were focused,” Nancy observed. They were serious about the game and had that Vince Lombardi “winning is the only thing” approach, she noted. It was time for an identity of their own. Nancy quickly compiled an email list and sent out an invitation. In essence it read, “Grab a partner and roll with the Babes.”

And roll they did.

That first Ball Blaster Babes tournament had four two-person teams. It was a success. It was fun. And it was a “go” from then on. Today there are more than 30 women on the BBB email list. Nancy schedules about six no-frills, all-women tournaments per year, and she recruits constantly.

She and husband Warren (hardcore roller in his own right) are frequent flyers at the two North Domingo Baca City Park courts. They live only minutes away, and the game has become part of their lifestyle and their passion. When spectators gather – one or more – Nancy goes into action, explaining the game in a nutshell and inviting a few practice throws. She offers free coaching and training by appointment. As a result, her Babes’ league continues to grow.

“We now have a robust roster of players that I would match against almost anyone,” Nancy says. On Tuesday, September 17 at 6:00 PM she’ll do just that. She’ll match three Babes’ teams against three men’s teams in a round robin tournament at the North Domingo Baca courts. The Ball Blaster Babes vs. the Ball Blaster Boys, as it were. Spectators always welcome. New recruits encouraged. Come see how they roll!

SOURCE: Italy in New Mexico

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