Thursday, November 20, 2003

Gutter Ball 

I grew up in a bowling alley.

Maybe that is a small exaggeration, but I did spend many of my formative years in one. My mother managed the local 32-lane bowling alley for almost 20 years. Some 18+ retired years later people still approach her in the grocery store, asking if she was the "bowling lady." Somehow she remembers every one of them, along with their brothers, sisters, parents and best friends. It wouldn't surprise me if she remembered some of their rental shoe sizes.

Despite having such strong roots in bowling, it was a surprise even to me that I actually tuned into the PBA Greater Philadelphia Open this past Sunday. Growing up, the television was on for every single bowling event being broadcast. On the torture scale of things, it wasn't as bad as watching golf, but it was up there. With only one TV in the house, televised bowling is probably one of the main reasons why I am able to focus on reading despite a TV blaring in the background.

I tuned in this past Sunday for three reasons: 1) my Mother reminded me to, 2) an old friend was bowling in the tournament, and 3) my husband decreed that I had to remain in the house to get over whatever it was that I was under the weather with last week. So I was bored. Bored enough to watch a little bowling on television. Very little.

Currently ranked 26th this season (not so good), Parker Bohn III cut his teeth bowling at the same lanes I grew up in. He was a few years younger than me, but light years ahead of most kids his age when it came to his passion for bowling. I think he spent almost as much time at the bowling alley as I did when we were growing up. His parents were bowlers, too, and they were friends with my parents, so we ran into each other a lot. My mother helped nurture his passion for bowling, as she did for most of the young people there, and they've remained friends over the years.

Parker has won over 29 PBA Tour Titles over the span of his career (very, very good), and so far this year has earned close to $90,000 bowling. (That sounds high, but not when you compare it to his 1999 bowling income of $232,500.) Typically, he has a bowling average of around 220. Unfortunately, he wasn't "on" this past weekend, and you could see it in his disappointed face. It was tough to watch him roll a first game of only 166 (especially remembering that was once my own average). My mother was heartbroken and insists that she will never tune in again when he's bowling because she's afraid she jinxes him!

Televised PBA events have changed a lot since I was a kid. The cameras get so up close and personal with the bowlers, it's kind of disturbing. Who wants to see bowlers' nose hairs? And the sound seems so invasive -- you can hear the guys breathing and muttering under their breath. Bowling fashion has changed as well. Erik Forkel, who was in the match against Parker, bowled wearing dark Wayfarer sunglasses -- he's like the Fonz of bowling, minus the hair.
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