AFTER THE WHISTLE

The sacred sport of bowling

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My co-workers think it's humors, as did many of my friends when I was growing up.

For as long as I can remember, my love for the game of bowling has been met with smiles, cute little wisecracks and an occasional gut-wrenching laugh, which is normally followed by a comment like, "Oh, you were serious."

I can't explain it, but for years bowling has been the butt of many jokes that have been directed my way almost always by someone who threw a 100 game during bowling for bucks with his family. They are the type of people who think endurance activities like snowshoeing, skiing and hockey are the only real winter sports going on in Steamboat from December through March.

But in the next few weeks, the parking lot at the Snow Bowl will begin to fill as another type of athlete returns to the lanes for another season of bowling.

Yeah, I know what you are thinking, and it's true.

Bowling isn't for the weak-of-heart and by no means is it the activity for every diehard sporting enthusiast.

You see, it takes the right type of athlete to head to the bowling alley. The season is long the 33-week span lasts from early fall until late spring. It is a sport that demands skill, accuracy and consistency measured by a personal ability to roll a 16-pound (or in some cases lighter) ball down a lane and knock over pins.

It also takes a person who can, if they will admit that they bowl in public, be able to take endless bowling jokes from fellow employees.

They will ask you if you set the beer down between frames, ask if they can borrow your bowling shoes for a Halloween custom and crack a smile when you tell them what you bowled last night. They always seem to think they can do better.

The truth is a perfect game is 300 and a 700 series is something most hard-core bowlers would love to have. The fact is only a handful of people in Steamboat will ever reach that 700 mark and even fewer will score a perfect 300.

Many of my co-workers think that to be a good bowler, all that is needed is the ability to consume large quantities of beer and still be able to walk in a straight line.

Wrong.

You see, I've seen a lot of 20-somethings show up at the bowling alley at the start of the league season thinking it's going to be easy. They think bowling is something you do with your buddies on a Friday night.

Normally, within a few weeks of starting these types of bowlers are gone. Why? Because bowling is one of those things that anybody can do but very few people can do well. It's just as frustrating as golf and at times more competitive than softball. Most bowlers are good sports, but if you drop by on a Thursday night, there's a good chance you will learn a four-letter word or two if you listen closely. They will also discover the real price of bowling isn't the league fee, but the price you have to pay to your teammates when you don't strike and they all do every good bowler knows you will be paying for your teammates' next beer. The are plenty of other costs associated with bowling that are too numerous to go into right now.

Bowling is one of those games you can play every once in a while and expect a good game or two. But every good bowler knows the sport is about more than just throwing one good game. People who bowl talk about averages and series. They don't measure a good season by a single game, but instead by their average over the course of a year.

Every year a few people at work will challenge me to a game from time to time. I think they want to prove to me that bowling isn't that hard to do.

But a good bowler is one who can overcome the ups and downs of an entire season, is able to pick up a teammate when they miss a spare and has the skill to throw a strike when the game is on the line. The really good bowler will come through even after a few beers.

Bowling isn't the most physically demanding sport in the world, and yes, it's true you can bowl and drink a beer at the same time.

But the bowler needs a lot of skills that are not found in other sports one of the best attributes any bowler can have is commitment.

To be a part of a team in a league you have to show up once a week for 33 weeks. Sounds simple enough, but that's one of the biggest differences between new bowling teams and ones that have been around for a while. It's also the difference between a good bowling team and a bad one in most cases.

Maybe this type of commitment is more important in bowling than in other sports because there are only four or five members to a team (that number can vary depending on the league). If you're missing one bowler all the time it makes it hard to win games.

So go ahead and make fun of bowling those of use who bowl in leagues can take it and have already heard all the jokes about the game. We've discovered the sport is about a lot more than just spares, strikes and beer.

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