The Art of Bowling

It seems so simple on television: he holds up the gleaming black bowling ball, sighting over it as if it had a sniper scope on top. He takes three graceful strides, swings his arm with such deftness that the sphere just barely brushes the floor. It then hurtles like the cannonball it resembles towards the pins. Strike! Or spare. Or something pretty darn good.

Certainly not a gutter ball. That award is reserved for those of us who think, "That looks easy!"

Last night I rendezvoused with around a dozen GTA bloggers at an establishment with the charming name "Bowlarama". I'm not sure if a classy word like "establishment" really goes with anything that ends with "-arama", but I'll leave it at that for now.

My first hint that I was not going to go professional was when I picked up the ball. Good golly, the thing was heavy. I didn't expect it to be hollow, but I was surprised by its heft. I realized that getting something with that much inertia to cooperate was going to be a challenge.

On my first shot I scored one point. On my next try, if I recall correctly, the ball went down the gutter. I suspect it had something to do with gravitation, or maybe magnets.

Looking around me I observed the wide variety of styles my fellow players were developing. While nobody tried the classic "walk up to the line and push with both hands", a few people experimented with the popular theory that the harder you hurl the ball, the more likely you are to terrify the pins into falling over. Also, some of the balls did get quite a bit more air time than I think they're supposed to.

I decided to work on visualization. I felt that if I could see, in my mind, what I wanted the ball to do, it would sympathize and magically go where it was needed – possibly backtracking if necessary. Although it didn't, I can take some pride in the fact that I did not try to modify its trajectory with "body english". I felt inadequate enough that I managed to hold off those subconscious gyrations.

Mind you, a silly dance like that wouldn't have been entirely out of place. This was apparently the Disco Bowl, with strobes and other flashing lights increasing my perplexity and possibly threatening some people with seizures. On the plus side, the loud music made it hard for me to concentrate on just how badly I sucked at this sport, so it wasn't all bad.

Since visualization wasn't working, I decided to try coordinating my movements more effectively. This greatly enhanced my ability to hit the gutter. Apparently my gracefulness is not helped by thinking, "Step. Step. Step. Running out of room! Throw!"

I finally decided to adopt a kind of Zen attitude. I hoped that if I could become one with the totality of the experience, people might look the other way when it was my turn. As it happened, I actually did start to improve. I managed to score 100 on my first game, which is fully one-half of not utterly awful.

During the second game, one of the players (Jen) appeared to be running out of alternative techniques. After admitting my total lack of skill, I put forth a sage recommendation: "Be the ball". After she guttered, I said, "Did I say be the ball? I meant be the pins." It turned out that my advice to Jen – including astute comments pertaining to mass and velocity ("These balls sure weigh a lot, eh?") – were equally unproductive, so I let Rannie (who had won the first game) give her the pointers.

I managed to get 106 points on my second game, which is still atrocious, but at least this time I had an excuse. The lame lane machinery and the associated score-keeping computer somehow managed to lose my ball about halfway through. So now it was a software problem.

I would have to say a good time was had by all. I certainly didn't hurt many pins.

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