Sports / Travel

From Amelia Island to Paris: The Fat Boy Who Would Become A Petanque Olympian

It certainly plays more cinematic in my mind than it did on the dew-covered pitch that Saturday morning some 30 years ago but the fact remains, I was smashed in the face by the ball, then by a cleat from the opposing team’s #9. Things went dark for a bit.

In the aftermath, while I was down on the ground, a foul was committed in the box, the details of which are unknown to me but I like to imagine one of my defenders leveling their striker for unnecessary tween boy aggression against my nose and mouth.

A few moments later I came to, composed myself like Willis Reed, shook away the cobwebs, and saved the little bastard’s penalty like a boss.

I choose to play keeper because I could get out of running laps in practice; a fat boy allergic to physical activity.

A future Olympian I was not.

But I heroically stopped that penalty with a busted up face. Your move, Mo Farah.

Petanque Amelia Island Florida

One might think that traveling all the way to the most northeast sliver of Florida, a stone’s throw to Georgia from Fort Clinch, to play a game would be a silly way to spend your time and money, especially when this game of pentaque is probably played somewhere closer, maybe somewhere in your city, but to be at the agreed-upon birthplace of the game in the States, even if that birthplace is essentially a quartered off sunny section of bayside parking lot, is something special.

Welcome to the game of petanque on Amelia Island, Florida.

Petanque Amelia Island Florida

With a tangled mess of orange outdoor extension cords in his hands, Phillippe finished his petanque preamble, turning over the makeshift lectern inside the gazebo to Kate Harris in her #LoveAmelia black t-shirt, to fiddle with a speaker on a bench behind us, on the water which had left boats tilted in the mud at low tide.

Music, a ramshackle playlist putting George Michael in a queue with typical French tunes that wouldn’t sound out of place in Parisian kindergarten classroom, isn’t essential to playing Petanque but the inclusion of a diverse, playful soundtrack tells it’s own story.

The sport of pentaque is as much a social coming together as it is a competitive event.

Just how competitive petanque gets is up to you and your mates, but things got heated on Amelia Island in November during the #LoveAmelia ManFAM press trip.

And I hereby declare, after 45 minutes in the birthplace of petanque and a rousing come from behind victory in our first match, that my pentaque partner, the pig assassin, NYC’s own The Jason Greene, and I will represent our country at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games in the sport of petanque.

While not officially an Olympic medal sport yet, the push has begun to add petanque to the roster of competitive sports in time for the Paris games in 2024.

The push is also on here in the snowy northeast of the U.S.A. in early 2018, as Jason and a once-fat goalkeeper who never ran but could dramatically save penalty shots, dream of walking into the Stade de France (or wherever the 2024 Opening Ceremonies will be in Paris), waving our red, white and blue flags, taking selfies with Katie Ledecky, and then helping to increase America’s medal county by winning bronze, silver or gold in petanque, with George Michael’s “Faith” and dainty French nursery rhymes swirling around our heads as we fondly remember our afternoon playing petanque for the first time on Amelia Island with Phillipe some 7 years prior.

Find out more about pentanque’s history on Amelia Island and make your own plans to visit this beautiful slice of Florida to swim, golf, eat, stay, and to toss a few silver boules as close as you can to the little red pig.

OWTK was a part of a press trip to Amelia Island. Travel, lodging, food and all were provided. All opinions expressed above are honest and unbiased, as always. It is a beautiful place to vacation with family and/or a gaggle of guy friends, and petanque is an immensely enjoyable pastime you should absolutely try.

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  1. Go for the gold!

  2. Elaine Holsnd says:

    My husband and I flew over to join some friends to play on this competition last November – so pleased we did, Amelia Island it’s such a lovely place to play this friendly, multi-cultural game, bringing so many people together for a weekend of competition, socialising, enjoying just being here. We hope to do it all over again should we get the opportunity. Definitely worth it.