Friday, August 20, 2010

It Takes Balls



As a renowned expert on bowling, I get asked questions a lot. For example: "Are you aware you're not actually a renowned expert on bowling?" At which point my usual practice is to point the other way, shout "LOOK!," give the person a Death Wedgie while he or she is turned around, and then run like hell. So far it has worked out pretty good.

So what is it that makes this sport the undisputed Sport of Kings, at least assuming we are referring to King Brent the Slightly Pockmarked of Hullaballoo, who was known mostly for running around naked, except for a toy stethoscope worn backwards over his head, and impersonating a superhero named Captain Blammo? (This king was a pretty good bowler, you see.)

I will answer that question for you, based on my fairly reliable recollection (without actually having to look back) that there was one. Bowling is the greatest sport because it is the only sport - and I except neither fencing nor "Skee-Ball" from this claim - that you can play in constant proximity to bowling alley chicken fingers ("Made from Parts"), and nobody ever bats an eye.* Whereas if these chicken fingers showed up in other prominent sports - well, I mean, can you imagine? Suppose they showed up in a swimming pool during the Summer Olympics! The international swimming federation would have a fit! The chicken fingers would immediately be made to submit to a urine test. All hell would break loose, and that is not even counting the incriminating photos that would later surface of the chicken fingers engaged in illicit activities with Michael Phelps.

I do not mean to suggest, of course, that chicken fingers are all bowling alleys provide. On the contrary, any respectable bowling alley - any alley worth its weight in those ugly-ass shoes - will also feature: large quantities of crud.

"Harrumph," you are saying. "What about Bowlmor, the bowling alley of the rich and famous, as advertised on the Manhattan subway, with locations in New York's Union Square, as well as Bethesda, Cupertino, Long Island, Miami, and Orange County?"

Good point. You can be sure there is no bacteria in a place where both Paris Hilton and the Olsen twins have courageously lent their names to the bowling cause. I have never personally been to this bowling alley, although I have seen its subway ads many times, usually in between the ads for Minimally Invasive girly-parts surgery and the ads for the grim-faced actors playing lawyers who once fictionally got a $5 quintillion settlement for a Queens man whose face got eaten by squirrels, or whatever. I like the bowling ads best of the three, because they list all the celebrities who have ever bowled there, like this:

MATT DAMON * JULIA ROBERTS * BEYONCÉ * WHATS-HIS-FACE FROM THAT ONE SEASON OF AMERICAN IDOL * THE DALAI LAMA * GALILEO

"You're just bitter," you're saying, "because you suck at bowling. Maybe you should stick to things you're better at, such as picking at your teeth." I admit there may be some truth to this, though my suckage at bowling is through no fault of my own. The blame lies squarely with genetics, as I discovered yesterday upon bowling with my family. To give you an idea of our prowess: collectively, the four of us, bowling two games apiece, could not amass the kind of score your high-octane bowler such as Galileo could amass in one frame.

The blame also lies with the diabolical system known as "candlepin bowling," which is what they have at the local alley here. Now, at every other alley I have ever visited, people bowled with large bowling balls that could - call it a crazy game-enhancing tactic - hit pins. The candlepin system, on the other hand, is designed to ensure you never make the slightest contact with a pin. This is done by (a) making the ball so light and ineffective you could fire it out of a cannon and still not gather enough force to knock down the pins, not to mention that (b) even if you DID somehow gather enough force, the ball is expertly designed to sail BETWEEN even the most central of pins, missing contact with them by mere molecules. It would be considered an astonishing feat of precision if you were to do a throw like this on purpose. (DATING TIP: If you are trying to impress a date, just say you ARE doing it on purpose.) (ANOTHER DATING TIP: If your date is actually impressed by this, you should probably get another date.)

How could the candlepin system be permitted to exist, you ask? Here's my theory: candlepin bowling is the brainchild of crazed, diabolical tiny people (I am looking here at people of the Fisher-Price variety, and those troll dolls, and Regis Philbin) who invented the sport in the interests of watching people of standard dimensions fail miserably. If you ask me, these people hide out in the ball-return machine and scream with laughter every time you miss a shot. (They think they're muffling this laughter. But they're NOT.)

Of course, needless to say, just because you fail at bowling doesn't make you a worthless person. You could be a worthless person for all sorts of other reasons. For example, you could fail at the bowling alley arcade games. I am thinking here of air hockey. Especially if you play it the way I did the last time, namely against my particular opponent, a perfectly docile-looking girl who preceded our match with the statement, "I should warn you: I'm pretty aggressive."

Now in those days, I tended not to pay much attention when people tossed around words like "aggressive." I was not as old as I later became (immediately following that air hockey game). I have little memory of the game itself, except that my opponent played with such astounding, bladder-voiding violence as to make me truly fear for my life. As I recall, it was roughly around the time she sent the hockey puck flying clear through the opposite wall of the bowling alley that I chose to "throw in the towel," mostly because it would have been pretty hard to play in a fetal position. However, I am no weenie; I will have you know I got up from that fetal position roughly last Thursday, which is pretty impressive when you consider that that game occurred in only 2008. My joints are stiff.

When I got up, I'm pretty sure I heard badly muffled laughter from inside the ball-return machine.



And speaking of bowling!

TUNE IN NEXT TIME FOR: Bowling products you don't have. Because you're not cool.




* Speaking of which, I've always wondered: how do you bat an eye, anyway? Wouldn't the owner of the eye complain?

©2010 Nicola McEldowney

2 comments:

The Old Wolf said...

My VFJIC (Very First Job In College) was taking care of the bowling alley at the University of Utah. While I first was restricted to murdering Tinea Pedis and Staphylococcus in bowling shoes, along with a liberal dose of my own brain cells, I ultimately graduated to inserting various removable body parts deep into the bowels of Brunswick A2 pinsetters in the hopes of retreiving a stuck pin, a jammed ball, or the last one of my digits to be sliced off by that amazingly complex steel and rubber orgasmatron. When not tempting fate, and if the alley was empty, I was allowed to bowl for free. I got very good, and started averaging in the 200's. This branded me as perpetually lower middle-class, which stigma I bear to this very day, even though I haven't bowled for decades. Some things never go away.

Bob said...

Aaah yes -- candlepin bowling! (Probably something restricted to the Northeast -- I've never seen it here on the left coast.) I remember trying it as child during a family vacation to Lake Winnewhatsis...mostly unsuccessfully. (I was too young to try to use your proposed technique to confuse a date!)