Insert Bad Bowling Pun Here

There are some leisure activities that I do not particularly like. One fine example would be golf. This is because I do not understand a sport that will have a grown man waking up at 5 AM (on his day off), spend hours in an activity that would have a Bible believing pastor cussing and throwing metal objects, and say that they do it to “unwind and relax”. There are other activities that, while I truly enjoy them, I do not participate very often because I just absolutely stink at it. The example I will use for this writing is the wonderful pastime of bowling.

I find bowling to be a truly enjoyable activity. That is, once you put aside any germophobic concerns and rent a pair of uncomfortable shoes to play the game. Once you have done this, you get to hurl a sphere down a lane with the intention of knocking 10 pins down. Each regulation game has 10 frames with up to two chances per frame. The 10th frame offers up to three chances to knock down the pins. These means you have up to 21 chances to hurl the sphere, knock down the pins, and make the obligatory grandstanding gesture. As an added bonus, the grandstanding is not part of your score so you are not penalized if your Chuck Berry duck walk does not meet the approval of your audience. I mean what is not to like about this game?

Nevertheless, I do not bowl very often as I have never been very good at it. This is in spite of the fact that I was actually on a bowling league in 6th grade. Mind you, I think it was the league’s first year and to get on the team you just had to sign up. You only got “cut” once they ran out of spots. Still, if you are a student of Azalea Middle School in Mobile, Alabama and on the bowling team, you can now stated that you have read the work from one of the league’s pioneers.

Once a week, after school, we would take a bus to a nearby bowling alley. Each team in the league would bowl 3 games. The leader of our team was in the 8th grade and a very proficient bowler. He was very good at certain bowling techniques that I routinely failed. For example, he was very good at keeping his ball out of the gutter and actually knocking the pins down. He was also good at doing so while avoiding two things I did quite often – crossing the foul line or falling down. Actually, in one shining moment, I did both of those things. I formed my stance. I proceeded forward and began to hurl my ball down the lane. However, in doing so, I slipped and fell. Once I fell, I actually began to slide forward with half my body ending up across the foul line. Normally, my team leader was very stern and impatient about such things (probably because I managed to do this so often). This time was different. He came over, helped me up and asked me if I was OK. He then offered to let me bowl my frame over again. I curiously asked him why since I had, once again, fallen AND crossed the foul line. He then pointed toward the pins. I HAD KNOCKED THEM ALL DOWN. That’s right. I fell down, wound up across the foul line from my head to my waist, and got a STRIKE. I bowled my frame again, without falling, and knocked down a total of 2 pins. Clearly, lightning wasn’t striking twice here.

Yesterday, some 34 years later, I decided to go to the bowling alley for the first time in what must have been a good 10 years. The reason I did this is that I signed up for a corporate bowling tournament at my job to support Big Brothers/Big Sisters. I wanted bowling to be a recent memory before the tournament. I rented my pair of community germ ridden, uncomfortable shoes and selected my bowling ball. I looked up and, with humorous curiosity, asked God: How long will it take before I fall down in front of a bunch of 7 year olds having a birthday party to my right? God provided his answer – in the first frame. The number 10 pin was a routine victim in my practice as it was often the only pin I knocked down. It should be noted, however, that I knocked that lone pin down with great ferocity. In subsequent frames, I believe the other pins fell down merely as an act of compassion and kindness. I did manage to get a strike without falling or crossing the foul line.

I don’t think the other teams in this forthcoming tournament have much to worry about from the likes of me. Still, if I was a number 10 bowling pin, I’d start quivering with fear.