Beyond shuffleboard: Alternative outdoor sports for retirees

click to enlarge Beyond shuffleboard: Alternative outdoor sports for retirees - Allison Kerek
Allison Kerek
Beyond shuffleboard: Alternative outdoor sports for retirees

So you’re retired, and you need some options for filling your days other than the garden and the barstool. You came to Florida for the weather — why not go out into it, and try to get some semblance of exercise while you’re at it?

Shuffleboard, that’s the ticket. The classic Sunshine State silver-age pastime.

So you throw on your lime shorts, your red-and-yellow checked shirt, and your hat that looks like it came with a free bowl of soup, and you head on down to the shuffleboard courts.

And, horror of horrors, they’re teeming with … with … young people! Young people with beards, in inexplicable clothing, wearing hats worse than yours and sporting insanely cool eyeglasses and listening to abominable music. Young people playing an old person’s game, casually, even ironically, without a care, like heirs to the world itself.

Flaunting their seeming immortality — on turf that should rightly be yours!


You shouldn’t have to put up with it. You should be enjoying your time, and playing a sport that requires almost no physical activity whatsoever, and carping to your friends about how things used to be much less expensive. Well, you can! Here are two great alternatives to the shuffleboard courts. They’re both fun, non-exertion-intensive, and playable while holding a cocktail. But hurry to get in on the fun; both are showing signs of becoming “hip.” Then again, it might come in handy to be proficient at one or both when they do, just in case you’re looking for a cool young thing of your own.

Bocce — not to be confused with “bowls” or “lawn bowls” or “lawn bowling,” which are all the same thing and really similar to bocce except needlessly complicated and who the hell wants to figure that out — is tightly associated with Italian culture. It’s simple, think of it as spherical shuffleboard. There are traditional courts, but you can actually play bocce anywhere that’s reasonably flat. Two players or teams, four balls per side and a pallino. The pallino, a smaller ball, basically creates the court; one team throws it, and the players spend the rest of the game rolling their balls as close to it as possible. (An oversimplification, sure, but you get the idea.)
• Endless testicle jokes, obviously.
• Fully portable — play a fancy court, or strike up a game anywhere at all.
• A completely one-handed game — you never have to look for a place to set down your drink.
• Unlimited wagering and shit-talking potential — every bowl is a chance to smack your opponent’s ball out of action, making money and impugning their skills while you’re at it.
• Attractively eclectic — “Hey, what’s that old couple doing?” “I dunno, looks different and cool.”
• Even testicle jokes get old after a while.
• Investment required — if you want to be the cool old dude who says, “Let’s play bocce, I got everything we need,” then you gotta have the balls. (See?)
• Potential surprise visits from federal law enforcement agents who just assume you’re “mobbed up.”

Yup, croquet. Sport of queens, or at least the sport of royalty in Lewis Carroll’s fever-dream hallucinations. You know the drill: use the mallet to drive your balls through the wickets; “wickets,” BTW, is a British euphemism for “bent wire.” Like most things British or French, there’s a debate about whether croquet is British or French. There are about a million different variations of play, despite the fact that they all use the mallet to drive your balls through the wickets. For casual players, the best way to go is just to make it through the double wicket to tap the stake before your opponent, or before a long-fomenting revolution erupts, or whatever.
• The ever-present opportunity to make a “blue balls” joke.
• Course setup also serves as a sort of at-home test for gauging your imaginative capacity and/or OCD.
• When not being used, a croquet set makes an eccentric conversation-starter when displayed at home.
• It’s indescribably satisfying to put someone who thinks they’re a badass in the hospital using a croquet mallet.
• Colors!
• Investment required — you need a set to play.
• You’ll have to set your drink down somewhere to make your shots.
• It feels kind of weird playing the game while not dressed in Edwardian drag.

Have fun! 

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