I am a terrible bowler. I like to attribute it to the fact that the ring finger on my right hand is crooked thanks to a flag football injury.* A bowling ball often gets hung up on the crooked finger, but that’s only part of the problem. The rest of the problem is that I suck at bowling.
*Two of my three worst permanent injuries were sustained playing intramural flag football—one as an undergrad, one in grad school; the third and worst of the three was sustained in a pickup soccer game—what’s up with that?
When we lived in Michigan, where bowling is quite popular,* some of my classmates formed a bowling league, and every Monday night from ten to midnight, I would be at the lanes with my three teammates, about 50 other MBA students, and a bunch of inebriated restaurant workers (the other league playing that night).
*One of the guys who graduated a few years ahead of me from the B-school forewent an opportunity to work on Wall Street or at a Fortune 500 company to join the PBA.
We were only allowed to bowl three players per game, so unless one of us couldn’t make it, someone had to sit out. Since Jake is good at every sport (assuming you consider bowling a sport), and Aaron was* Canadian and there’s no such thing as a Canadian who can’t bowl, at least none I’ve met, it was almost always Carolyn and me that alternated riding the pine.
*I say “was” here not because he’s dead, but because he’s now a US citizen—wonder if he can still bowl?
When it was my turn to play, my goal was always simply to not embarrass myself. Not embarrassing myself meant scoring at least 100. I think I actually fell short of this mark once.
Anyway, fast forward six years, and I’ve bowled exactly once in the interim. But on Sunday, JunkieBoy got it in his head that he really wanted to go bowling. He somehow was reminded of the one time we went a couple years ago and remembered it fondly.
JunkieGirl was less excited, I think because the first time she went bowling, also in Michigan, on the very first frame she slipped and fell, splitting her chin open on the bowling ball, requiring several stitches. Nevertheless, Rachel and the kids met me at the lanes last night after work.
Keiki was the first up. At two years old and 26 pounds, she needed some help, even with the six pound ball. It’s a good thing the lanes have a downward slope, otherwise the ball never would have made it to the pins. The highlight of the evening was watching her as she rolled the ball and then laid down on the floor, kicking her feet with excitment as she watched it knock over one, maybe two pins. JunkieGirl and JunkieBoy both made good use of the bumpers on their turns and were likewise pleased if any pins got knocked over. I chided Rachel that they should have left the bumpers up for her when her first ball went in the gutter.
She knocked down nine pins with the second one, though, and I got off to my usual, pathetic start and was sitting on 21 points after three frames. I was starting to get nervous that my two goals—to score over 100 and to beat Rachel—may not be realized.
Then I rolled a strike. Unfortunately, Rachel, or rather “Michigan,” since those latent midwestern bowling skills were waking up, answered with one of her own and held her lead. I rolled another and was feeling good. Rachel answered in kind.
I panicked. I knew that any kind of hot streak was going to be short-lived for me, and competing against a bowler who grew up in the Midwest is like starting a land war in Asia or having a battle of wits with a Sicilian when death is on the line.
My game was riding on getting the Turkey—I needed that third consecutive strike. I also knew the odds were against me, as I’d only ever bagged the turkey once before. I grabbed the ball and held it in my left hand as I held my right over the air drier. Focus. I put my fingers in the holes. Step, aim, release. It was going left of the headpin. My only hope was with the Brooklyn. The ball had good velocity and struck between the one and two. They all went down. The gobbler flashed on the monitor overhead. Michigan had no answer and never recovered. The game was mine.