Originally published Wednesday, April 25, 2018 at 05:59a.m.
I lived in Columbus, Ohio, up to the age of 19. A significant portion of those 19 years was spent indoors due to the lousy winter weather outdoors. Dark, cold and irritatingly gray was the typical forecast from November through April each year. Cabin fever would set in along about early March when I and the rest of the seasonal reclusives would rush out of our burrows looking for signs of anything but more winter.
My favorite cold-weather sport in Ohio was squatting next to a crackling fireplace to thaw out the underwear. Somewhere further down on my list of favorite things to do was bowling.
I never became accomplished at the game. After a couple of frustrating years of spraying bowling balls all over the alley, I discovered that there were strategically drilled finger holes which, when employed, helped to somewhat control the trajectory of the damned spheroid. But the improvement was negligible.
The only approach I could manage was to fling the ball as hard as I could down the middle of the alley. Sometimes it stayed out of the gutter long enough to collide with a couple of pins. I never learned to throw a hook. I never had my own monogrammed bowling glove. Or bowling ball. Or bowling shirt with my name stenciled over the pocket. Or my own shoes that actually fit.
I never, ever took a date to bowling alleys. One reason, of course, was that I was completely incompetent in them. In my opinion, bowling alleys were also stunningly boring unless one had a 190-plus average and knew who Don Carter was at the time. Alleys tended to pop up in the most average of places. A strip mall might feature a grocery store, a shoe store, a smoke and pipe shop ... and a bowling alley. The architecture of the alley didn’t apologize for being average, itself, nor did it cast its own shadow since it was only one business in a string of them. It, along with most of the rest of the buildings, was of cinder block construction. Central Ohio in the 1950s and ’60s didn’t pride itself on aesthetics, so the cinder blocks if painted at all were usually finished in dull hues of gray or green inside and outside.
All along I thought bowling was a casual inside activity that Mid Westerners tolerated only to avoid the inclemency outside. It never occurred to me that bowling was a very serious matter for some citizens. There are actually specific names for each pattern of pins standing after the first ball is delivered. There’s the Dinner Bucket leave, the Baby split, the Christmas Tree #1 and #2, the Greek Church, the Dime Store #1 and #2, the Washout #1 and #2 and the Goal Posts. I had my own names for the pins I left standing after the first ball: The Hell With It, Forget It, and Why Do I Bother #1 and #2.
Chris Shenkel called the play by play for The Professional Bowlers Tour on TV during the 1960s. He actually did that for 36 years — God help him. As a young person, I always wondered why he spoke in hushed tones when broadcasting since crashing pins made a lot more noise than he did.
I was shocked to learn that there is no patron saint of bowling. Considering my bowling skills, I could really have used one. A perfect saint would be someone squat and very round with no hair. There has to be a saint matching that description somewhere.
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