I grew up bowling
. On many winter Saturdays we grew up listening to Chris Economacki and Billy Welu cover the current PBA tournament on television. Back then the Pro Bowlers Association
was headquartered in my home town of Akron, Ohio
and its founder, Eddie Elias was a regular golf
partner of my step-father. But it was mostly my father who got me into the game.
Dad is a bowler. Make that a good bowler. He hasn't thrown a 300 game yet, but he has a couple of 800 series to his credit. To shoot 800 in three games means you have to average 267 for each game. To offer some perspective on that, if you throw a game of all strikes except for one frame where you leave one pin and pick up the spare, that usually leaves you with a 279 game. Only very, very good bowlers ever throw an 800. And Dad is one of those guys who gets better with a little money on the line. He used to think about going out for the pro tour. Except that bowling is a blue collar sport. If you watch a PGA tournament you see ads for Mercedes-Benz cars and Rolex watches. The 2010-11 bowling season is sponsored by Lumber Liquidator$. The payoff for winning a tournament is similarly diminished. As an professional engineer, Dad made a good salary, good enough that he'd have to be among the top twenty on the tour in order to do significantly better, and he'd never be at home with his family. So Dad remained a league bowler, but he's also one of those guys who gets asked to join a team rather having to ask.
So I grew up bowling a lot of Saturdays with my father. Which meant I had coaching, and developed a smooth, fundamentally sound style. But I was never anything special. I am a geek, and back then nobody had a computer they needed a geek to work on, so geeks were distinctly low-status individuals. Back then they called us nerds, or worse. I was very self-conscious so relaxation was impossible in an age where relaxation is often difficult. I was my own worst enemy most of the time, and so my scores reflected my personality more then my skill. Again nothing unusual for teenagers, but I had a worse case then most.
And my friends decided to stop bowling. League bowling is a team sport, and it's a lot more fun when you like the people you're bowling with. I bowled in a Saturday morning league with a couple of my best friends for one year. The next year they dropped out and I bowled with one friend and three people I didn't know. Then I went off to college, didn't make the college bowling team, and well pretty much dropped out of the game.
For thirty-five years. My shoes no longer fit. I kept my bowling ball, but putting my fingers into it turned out to be a fantasy.
Then about four years ago I dated a woman who was a mystery shopper and she often got bowling alley shops. We'd go in and throw a few games (they insisted that we had to use alley balls and shoes--- no problem since my stuff no longer fit.) I found I liked it and mentioned it to my father. A couple weeks later I found myself at Riviera Lanes getting my hand measured by Donnie, the pro who drills my father's balls and a bowler Dad admires. Which means he's really freaking good. Make no mistake, all pros are not equal. He measured me, tested my limberness, and on Christmas Eve I found a new ball and bag waiting for me under the tree. Dad took me bowling and started coaching me like he did in days of old.
Only things are a little different now. Back then, I hated myself. But somehow in the intervening thirty-five years I managed to get laid. Today I'm comfortable in my own skin. I'm much more willing to take coaching, and am relaxed enough to understand what Dad's really getting at. He tells me to do something, and it usually works. In 2009 a local bowling alley staged a free summer league for businesses and my company sponsored a team. I liked it, and tried to join a winter league. Lesson to self: If you want to join a winter league start looking in August or very early September. Most leagues are full by mid September unless you're bringing a whole team with you. This year I started early.
So I found myself on a team with two guys I'd never met before in my whole life. I expected I would suck, because while my game showed promise, I couldn't quite put things together over the previous year. So I came there deciding that, for me, 150 was a good game. I just hoped I wouldn't get humiliated and find myself on a team that didn't want me.
But once again Dad proved right. He told me it would take about a year or so before things "clicked in'. Lo and behold they did on my first night of league competition. I averaged a solid 177 with a high game of 226. And I've been getting better ever since. I've beaten everyone on my team all but three games that we've bowled together. I'm the anchorman and have won a few games for us when I struck out in the tenth frame to pull us ahead. I'm not the best bowler in the league by a long shot, but I've beaten some good bowlers. Now people nod at me when I come into bowl and call me by name.
Now all I have to get a few more kinks worked out, because I think I'd really like to bowl in a tournament with my Dad. I think he'll have me as a teammate. In fact, I'm sure of it.