Bowling: Not a Real Sport
One man's split opinion on a multi-ethnic, trans-racial activity
Al Carlos Hernandez
Last week, I once again tried to get the hang of bowling and went to a local alley with a group of friends, two of whom never bowled. We had a good time, but I am not ready to join a Moose Lodge. Yet.
Published on LatinoLA: July 7, 2003
I have three or four alley-way humiliating experiences under my belt and was in no position to give any advice. Suffice it to say: Rent the whack shoes, don?t try it in Stacy Adams, and try to knock them all down the first time, so no one will try to coach you.
Some families have a tradition of bowling as a culturally honored activity and many have the hubris to tout that fact that their uncle had two three hundred games, or their Dad or Mom was a member of nine teams at once.
You hear disjointed, inane, often pointless stories about some cousin who angled a split, then picked up a spare in the last frame, which gave him a pin up to win the tourney? A word to bowling-aholics: It is virtually impossible to impress an urbanite with bowling lingo. It?s like wearing a pair of overalls and a tie. From where I come from, any public display of math skills was avoided like the plague.
My Dad worked at a bowling alley as a young man, but never encouraged us to take it seriously. This was years before the invention of those aerosol shoe disinfectants, and automatic pin setters.
Bowling is now computerized and sanitized and this alley, which looked like a wooden parking lot, had a mug shot of Rodney Dangerfield up on a TV screen in a red Vegas tuxedo mugging you if you rolled a gutter ball. I saw his face more than once.
During college, my friends and I hated bowling because it was one of Richard Nixon?s favorite past times. He even had an alley built in the White House. Tricky Dick was wrong about Viet Nam but maybe right about bowling. I saw lots of folks my age trying the get their roll on.
Lifelong bowlers assume a smug, often nerd-like bravado as soon as they put on their pastel paneled shirts and lace up their special education looking Ringling Brothers styled shoes.
I do, however, like those Melrose chic bowling shirts, the kind you can buy at the Segunda (Thrift store) the ones with the names like Buddy, Lucky and Ace embroidered over the left front pocket.
There should be some standard bowling rule that docks someone who owns their own ball, bag and shoes a few dozen pins per game.
Bowling to me is very much like golf. Any competitive activity that can be accomplished in everyday street clothes, in my opinion, cannot be considered a real sport. It seems reasonable that any sport that you can play in church clothes, which cannot cause grave injury, couldn?t be that physically challenging, and should be categorized as para-sport.
Real sports are Baseball, Football, Basketball and Soccer.
What is great about bowling, though, is that it is the most multi-ethic activity I have ever seen. Every race represents, and bowling is no respecter of ethnicity. There is no racial dominance in this para-athletic endeavor. Bowling teams represent churches, businesses, social organizations, political ones, and is no respecter of gender either.
If you can bowl and know how to work the shirt and the shoes, someone will want you on a team. I, however, have been given no offers at this time.
Bowling has a certain decorum that is supposed to be adhered to. You have to be quiet when someone is about to take their shot so they can concentrate. The game would be more fun if you could tackle them or talk more smack, or hurl comical insults like a pick-up three on three basketball game at the park.
There was a bowling show on Comedy Central for a while that allowed you to use an air horn once a frame to distract your opponent when he or she was ready to throw it down.
It would also be helpful if the pins could be painted to look like political figures, DMV clerks, IRS agents and insurance salespeople.
If I ever get serious about becoming a bowler, since I come from a long line of ballers, I?ve already envisioned a bowling ball that is painted like a soccer ball, and plan on watching every Flintstone cartoon. Twinkled-toed Fred was set the standard for bowling eloquence for me.
Al Carlos Hernandez:
Al Carlos is a national columnist and a screenwriter.