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With my ball bag slung over my shoulder I push my way into the Great Hall of Civilization – the bowling alley.
I am greeted by a glorious cacophony of rolling thunder, splashing pins, great cranking, cantankerous pin setters, those ancient war machines churning behind the curtain.
This is truly the amphitheater of the gods, a refuge from the sullen world outside. Slick shoes and flashy shirts, bright swirly orbs that skid over oiled pine to slaughter pins and wreak general havoc in the back of the building.
Crowds gather behind the settee to cheer for their heroes whose strikes, spares and gutter balls incite emotional outbursts and strange gyrations on the approach.
Don’t let lesser sports with their flashy gimmicks and prime time slots on network television fool you. Bowling is and always has been the True American Pastime.
It has evolved from a savage brood of cavemen chucking skulls at sticks and bones to the epitome of entertainment that we know today, the largest participation sport in the country. It handily beats a night at the rifle range or casino.
Bowling is the greatest sport ever known to man because it is a just sport. It is fair and even handed. Most leagues are handicapped, and everyone has an honest shot at taking home a trophy.
You can best an opponent twice your size with a keen eye and skilled delivery, because bowling is a sport of precision and practiced consistency. It is not raw power that lays waste to that pyramid of enameled maple at the end of the lane, but the artful execution of a well-delivered hook that penetrates deep into the pocket and carries the 10 pin.
This is a sport that doesn’t discriminate. It’s a team sport, which fosters camaraderie and brings people together from all walks of life. People with physical challenges can be accommodated. You don’t have to be rich to participate. You can buy in for the price of a ball and a pair of shoes.
Or not – you can borrow a house ball from the rack and rent shoes for the night.
It’s an indoor sport, weatherproof and multi-seasonal. There are summer leagues, fun leagues, mixed couples, scratch leagues and a host of other options available.
It is a sport that caters to the young through junior leagues and high school programs, where learning solid form and fundamentals is highlighted.
Conversely, it’s a sport that ages with you, because it doesn’t take the frame of a body builder to roll the ball down the lane. Unlike football or soccer, people can play this game well into their golden years, as the roster of any given senior league will attest.
Sadly, the industry is being tested by shifting trends in our society. Evil gas stations and retail chains are buying out bowling centers because they are often planted in prime real estate lots and busy intersections.
It is difficult to dissuade retirement-aged owners from cashing in on generous buy out offers that eclipse the value of their businesses. Added to this phenomenon is the increased competition for our free time from less wholesome indoor activities like video games, streaming services and online porn.
It’s important to support your local bowling center in whatever capacity suits you, whether it’s league play, open bowling, birthday parties or just occasional relief from mid-winter cabin fever.
Bowling is really good for us. It’s active, it gets us out of the house, and it brings us together.
Remember-if we don’t show them our love, these community treasures will quietly fade away.