Bocci is a game refined in Italy from a ancient game played in the Roman Empire. Although you don't have to be Italian to play it, it helps (one has to play the game with passion, as we Italians generally do).

The idea is to toss out a little yellow 'target' ball, called the Pallino, and then score points by tossing your balls and getting them closer to the Pallino then your opponent can. You can play one-on-one or with teams. Organized Bocci is played on a small, hard, flat, bordered court.

That's how 'traditional' Bocci is played. But this past weekend at my sister's Labor Day party we developed a variation that I call 'Extreme Bocci".

Mike and Cindy have a 10 acre property which is mostly grass, but its studded with a variety of interesting trees. Because their property is gently rolling, with small ridges and shallow gulleys, it provided a field of play that is much more challenging than the flat courts on which traditional Bocci is played. In some cases, the Pallino was tossed and ended up either in a shallow dip or on the other side of a ridge, which made it unseen by us as we threw our balls.

For most of the day, we chased the Pallino around curves and contours of the property. And as we did, each player developed a style of his own.

Since we couldn't always see where the Pallino was, and couldn't always tell which team's ball was closest to the Pallino (which is important), we needed a 'Spotter' to stand near the Pallino and relay that info back to us. For that job, I drafted my cousin, Dan Gol ( or "Danny Gold" as I've recently dubbed him in an effort to help him develop a personna to support his desire to become a professional Poker player).

Although Tim Klipfel is not Italian, we dubbed him " The Klipfelli " because of his uncanny ability to get his ball next to the Pallino. This guy is the Pin Ball Wizard of Bocci! (he's not 'deaf, dumb and blind', but after 7 or 8 beers he comes pretty close). I don't know how he does it!

And speaking of blind, my brother-in-law Mike developed a style where he keeps his eyes closed when he tosses his ball (at least I think he keeps his eyes closed because there's no other way to account for where his balls usually end up).

Fran Lochner, from Rochester NY, is probably the most 'Italian' of all of us (I think Lochner is his Witness Protection name). He developed a style I call the 'Rochester style', where he plays the entire game holding a beer in one hand and throwing balls with the other.

Fran's son, FJ, showed us a style that I believe he learned during his service in Iraq. In this 'Iraqi' style, one lobs his balls as high as possible (like a mortar round) and then hopes it lands near the Pallino. When the 'Iraqi' style is being played, the Spotter is required to stand at least 20 feet from the Pallino.

I was the only one who used a traditional style of play. I got crushed.