Some are Republicans. Some are Democrats. But there’s one thing they agree on.
Rolling a large ball at a very small ball can be a lot of fun. And playing bocce ball is a great way to celebrate your Italian heritage.
So members of Congress turned out Monday night to play or to watch a sport that dates back to the Roman times.
The co-chairmen of the Italian American Congressional Delegation —Reps. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio, and Bill Pascrell Jr., D-N.J., — took on a team representing Xerox in the Congressional Bocce Ball Tournament. And the inside-the-Beltway politicians beat big business.
The fourth annual event, which was moved inside the downtown law firm of Venable LLP because of rain, also brought out Republican Reps. Mark Amodei of Nevada, Tom Marino of Pennsylvania and James B. Renacci of Ohio, along with Democratic Reps. Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania and Michael E. Capuano of Massachusetts.
The National Italian American Foundation sponsored the tournament. The foundation’s president, vice chairs, treasurer and members of the board of directors also participated.
This isn’t the only time during the year that Pascrell and Tiberi throw the pallino — the small ball used as the target — and then try to get just as close as they can to it with larger balls.
“[Rep.] John Larson hosts a big tournament in Connecticut and I play every time,” Pascrell said.
The New Jersey Democrat learned to play the sport when he was about 10 years old from his grandfather in Paterson.
Tiberi played bocce with his father in Columbus, Ohio and continued to play competitively.
“I joined his league in high school,” the Ohio Republican said. “I won the league twice, once when I was in college and once when I was a state representative.”
The Italian-American delegation in Congress is active throughout the year. Dozens of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle can trace their ancestry to Italy.
“We are a bipartisan group and the game breaks down political barriers,” Tiberi said. “It is a nice opportunity to form friendships outside politics.”
The Senate membership in the delegation is composed of Wyoming Republicans John Barrasso and Mike Enzi, along with Democrats Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia.
In the House, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., are members, along with about 40 others.