Sport: Bounding Basques

In Southwestern Europe, it was Pelota Week. From Biarritz on the Atlantic coast to Orthez and Oloron-Sainta-Marie in the heart of the Pyrenees, Basques were playing their national game. Shepherds and schoolboys, fishermen and priests, customs inspectors and smugglers ran each other ragged as they whipped a goatskin-covered ball against any convenient wall and went through the swift gyrations of pelota, that rugged ancestor of jai alai, handball and most other court games.

At Saint-Jean-de-Luz, spectators ignored a broiling sun and crowded the town fronton, as the pelota court is called. Kids clambered in...

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