I am no longer blogging here at Little Nuances, but I would love for you to join me on my author website www.leewarren.info.

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Happy League Bowler

My dad was a good bowler in his day. At one point, he bowled in eight leagues a week and he made a few appearances on a local bowling television program. He even shot a 700 while on television once. That was back when 700 used to mean something.

Today, for a variety of reasons, you’ll see an occasional 800 in league play. Even I have shot two 700s over the past nine years and I’m not that good. In the 1980s and 90s I carried a 160 average. I took some time off, bought a new bowling ball, joined a league in 2003, and my average jumped 25-30 pins.

Part of that had to do with bowling on a team of good bowlers who helped me make adjustments. Part of it was the equipment. And part of it had something to do with the lane conditions. Some houses put down a fairly easy shot to keep league bowlers happy. I don’t really find the shot to be easy, but my average has gone up, so it’s hard to argue the point.

This past weekend I bowled in the Nebraska state bowling tournament and the shot was beyond difficult. Apparently last year there were nineteen 300 games and the tournament officials thought that was too many so they added a gazillion tons of oil to the outside portion of the lanes and if pushed your shot out in that oil, your ball had no chance of making it back to the pocket. So you had to play inside, but I don’t throw enough ball to do that, so I struggled to the point of it not even being fun.

While in my hotel this weekend, I happened to read an article on The Atlantic’s website that said, “In the most recently completed United States Bowling Congress league season, nearly 52,000 ‘perfect’ 300 games were rolled. (A perfect game is 12 straight strikes over the 10 frames.) The total represents a 59-fold increase from 1970.”

It goes on to say, “Amateur scores are inflated because of more forgiving lane conditioning than in tournament play, but even among pros, the ethos of the game has changed from developing skills in converting difficult spares to getting the ball to hook consistently in a spot and at an angle at which a strike is assured.”

As somebody who is a traditionalist when it comes to sports, I find myself in the modernist position when it comes to league bowling. I don’t need to bowl well every week to have a good time. I like catching up with my teammates each week and bowling is a form of exercise. But I like having the potential to bowl well each week and the new equipment combined with the league oil patterns and the help of my teammates gives me a shot to put up a decent score.

Maybe we’re all just fooling ourselves, but I'm a happy league bowler who can’t imagine the game going back to the way it used to be. Bowling, like so many other sports, changes. You can't turn back the clock on a sport or anything else in life. You can only adapt. Maybe that means I'm not as much of a traditionalist as I thought.


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