NY Times Columnist William Giraldi stopped by the bocce courts in Boston’s North End and took a lesson from the Sunday morning regulars. Through the camaraderie of the oldest sport on earth (and the donuts), he concludes that The Secret to Long Life is Bocce.
The guys call Sammy “the commissioner” because he presides over the bocce league through the Friends of the North End, a 45-year-old fraternity of paisanos with sacred memories. “This place is our rightful inheritance,” Sammy told me. “Our fathers and grandfathers played here.” Every Sunday morning, this ritual at the bocce court is their Mass. “We play 95 percent by the rules,” Sammy said. “We’re really here just to be together.” And for the artery-fouling doughnuts confected that morning in a bakery down the street.
What you sense from Sammy and the others are gusts of pride: in this place, and in bocce, but also in the fact of their survival. Living to a moderately active, bocce-loving 75 might not seem like much of an accomplishment until you realize how hard it is to be alive. That was another reason I’d come here, because social scientists are forever highlighting the significance of social connections. I wanted to glimpse the trick to longevity, and it turns out to be nothing more complicated than having friends — and bocce.