The hidden jack and Articles 9 and 11

Article 11 says–

If, during a mene, the jack is unexpectedly hidden by a leaf of a tree or a piece of paper, these objects are removed.

Some players hold that Article 11 is about only leaves and pieces of paper, and that Article 11 is NOT applicable if (for example) a plastic bag blows onto the terrain and hides the jack. But of course that’s wrong.

Leaves and old newspapers are given only as examples, and Article 11 is clearly meant to apply to other things too. If something from outside the game comes onto the terrain and hides the jack from the player in the circle, then that alien thing should be removed. It doesn’t matter what that alien thing is, how many there are, or how they got there. It could be a leaf, two leaves, three leaves, a piece of paper, an old plastic bag, an empty soda bottle, a soccer ball, a balloon from a nearby birthday party, a meteor from outer space.

It is true, though, that a rule written in terms of examples (rather than criteria) is a badly-written rule. Article 11 does require interpretation. While exploring possible interpretations, players have asked some interesting questions about borderline situations. Some are hypothetical, but some really happened.

  1. The jack is half-buried in soft dirt. A player tries to shoot the jack, but his boule falls short. It hits the ground in front of the jack and pushes up more dirt, completely hiding the jack.
    • Is the jack dead (as specified in Article 9, “The jack is dead when the displaced jack is not visible from the circle.”)?
    • Or should the pushed-up dirt be removed (like a leaf, as specified in Article 11)?

  2. A player tries to shoot the jack. His boule misses, hits the ground, and pops a large stone out of the terrain. The stone flips through the air and lands directly in front of the jack, hiding it. ► Is the jack dead? Or should the stone be removed?
     
  3. A player points a boule. As it rolls across the terrain it encounters a leaf. It pushes the leaf ahead of it as it continues to roll. When the boule finally stops, the leaf is sitting in front of the jack, hiding it. ► Is the jack dead? Or should the leaf be removed?

When these questions were discussed on the “Ask the umpire” Facebook group, the consensus was that in all of these cases the jack is hidden and dead. Presumably the commenters felt that Article 9 was the applicable article; two actually cited Article 9.

This is interesting because Article 9 is about “the displaced jack” and the jack isn’t actually displaced in any of these situations. Why did the commenters feel that Article 9, rather than Article 11, is the applicable article?

My guess is that they used the interpretation of Article 11 that I proposed at the beginning of this post—

If something from outside the game comes onto the terrain and hides the jack from the player in the circle, then that alien thing should be removed.

The expression “something that doesn’t belong in the game” is of course quite loose. But after years of playing, players have an instinctive feeling about what is part of the game and what is not. The jack is part of the game. The boules are part of the game. So is the surface of the terrain. Soft dirt in some areas of the terrain, partly-buried stones in the terrain, even leaves lying motionless on the surface of the terrain… these are all normal and familiar. They are parts of the terrain, and as such they are part of the game.

And of course, we’re used to boules pushing bits of the terrain around. Thrown boules make divots. That’s why there are rules about filling holes in the terrain.

If all of these things are part of the game, then in none of the three situations did anything alien, anything from outside the game, come onto the terrain. I think that’s why none of the commenters chose to apply Article 11. And with Article 11 out of the running, the only other applicable rule is Article 9. The jack can’t be seen from the circle, so it is dead.


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