French public television features tennis during the French Open, Grand Prix car races and of course European football. Sometimes, there’s skiing on the local channel for those of us here in La Clusaz and other areas of the French Alps. Most daytime television revolves around dubbed, imported tele-dramas and shows about cooking or travel.
A few weekends ago, French TV surprised me, and yet it really shouldn’t have been that much of a shock. After all, the French love to play petanque in car parks and other random places, and Saint Jean de Sixt recently had a few playing areas built, so why shouldn’t a petanque competition run for hours on French TV?
I snapped a few photos of the action for you to enjoy too.
The first thing I noticed was the size of the crowd (see top photo). That’s one large crowd for a few tiny balls — and they’re even held back by barriers. They “ooh”ed and “ahh”ed in French as appropriate, and the camera zoomed in on the players to share their angst (see next photo down). The audience went silent while these French competitors thought for minutes about their next move. I’ve seen games of chess move faster.
The camera also zoomed in on the balls quite frequently. Now, you’d think a few heavy balls lingering around one small blue ball would be a bit boring to watch, but compared with the close-ups of the players mooching around and looking worried about their ball placement, the balls were a riot of fun to watch.
In comparison to other sports, the balls were like watching a snail drink beer — very slow, kind of enjoyable, but kind of morose at the same time. Beer kills snails. Petanque kills entertainment.
As you can see from the next photo, petanque players are unlikely to undergo doping tests. Despite the programme airing during a rather hot day at the end of summer, the players thankfully covered up those beer bellies and saved the viewers from thinking they were watching one of those personal makeover shows. Maybe that’s what drew the crowd in the first place.
Another ball close-up!
Now, just how close can you zoom in on a ball? Okay, there’s good old stump-cam in the cricket stumps of big cricket matches, but that camera at least shows a bright red ball hurtling towards the viewer like a comet hitting earth. It’s exciting, and stumps fall off the wickets like a slimmed-down Ker-plunk game. What we’re looking at here is a again more similar to a snail. The close-up continued while the ball slowly rolled, then halted, and stayed motionless while the camera continued filming.
Meanwhile, the tense player looked on with his gold necklace, earring and bracelet weighing him down. If the sport earns the players enough for such thick jewelery, I’m starting to think that petanque is my type of sport. Time to get in training with some beer.