Monday, March 12, 2012

Dirty Bowling

For my brother-in-law's birthday celebration, we were invited for some afternoon bowling fun. I've always enjoyed bowling, and I come from a long line of bowlers (who no longer bowl, but would, I am sure, have only good things to say about it.) Perhaps I'm just getting old and cranky, but bowling isn't at all what it used to be. It's still a lot of fun, but it's lost all its character. For instance, there used to be actual math involved on score sheets that looked something like this:

Now, I don't like math as a rule, but bowling math mattered. It wasn't just simple addition like most games, you had to think, and the better you were, the harder the math became. The sheets had all manner of things on their borders from advertisements of local businesses to bowling trivia. Now the score "sheets" look like this:

Oh, they're jazzy all right, and when you mark (that's what us oldsters call spares and strikes) fun graphics play. But you don't get to participate in this part of bowling anymore. There are no little circles around the numbers if you have a split. No one gets to argue about whether or not you color in the boxes for marks or whether you just make the / or X. And you don't get to take the score sheet home with you. Now you use your digital camera to take a photo of the score "sheet" and blog about it. So new fangled!

Other things have changed as well. I'm not old enough to have seen the days when there were actual people behind the lanes who racked the pins by hand, but I do remember reset buttons, ashtrays, and regular, overhead lights. I remember when almost every bowling alley looked something like this:

Today, they look like this:

Those tentacle things are already outdated, or they seemed to be since you don't even type your names in yourselves anymore. You give the person at the front desk a list of bowlers, and he sets it all up. There were huge video screens at the ends of the alleys playing all sorts of sports t.v. Because, you know, who doesn't like to watch other sports while they're bowling? There were flashing lights lining all the alleys, too. It was like razzle-dazzle or jackpot bowling. For all you kids out there, that's what used to happen on Saturday nights when they would intersperse the pins with some different colored ones and depending on how the pins came up, you could win money if you got a strike. They used to turn off the lane lights because it's harder to bowl in the dark when you can't use the alley markers. Alley markers you say? Those are (were?) the little arrows on the boards of the alley, and you could use them to help your aim. 

They didn't have "bumpers," those blow-up gutter blockers for little kids, either. You bowled granny-style, and if you got a gutter ball, well you just had to go sit on your plastic chair and cry about it, kid. 

For me, I brought the old familiar trappings of my bowling days. My treasure is this:

This belonged to my paternal grandfather, a pretty darn good bowler. It is beautiful hand-tooled leather. You can see the elk (it's probably really a deer of some sort, but it's my bag so it's now an elk) and on the other side is an ornate floral design. When I found myself more regularly in the company of serious bowlers, I cannot tell you the number of times they offered to buy this bag from me. Not a chance.

That half-moon zippered flap is the shoe compartment. I have to admit that even I can be seduced by the modernization of bowling, and my shoes are the pretty tennis shoe kind, not the communal tri-colored rentals.

I also have my own ball:

It's old. My name's almost rubbed off. I still love it.
If I was ever in the market for a new ball, though, I'd go with something like this:

I like the second one from the right.