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Shtickball: The Bowling Treatise

Every person has a different mechanism that relaxes their physical and emotional selves. I don’t mean leisure time that is somewhat distressing and provides temporary respite to an aching soul. I mean a true, unadulterated panacea to one’s daily ills, that which allows you to embody that very tired maxim and ‘leave all your troubles behind’. For me, bowling is my valium/yogalates/acupuncture all rolled into a tidy 16 lb ball. I play in a league at the most homey no frills bar in Williamsburg, and, heading into my fourth season, I can’t imagine life without a weekly trip to the Gutter.

The motions in bowling are pretty simple: the walkup, the take-back and the throw. Still, it’s a pleasure to watch other forms happening around you, and realize that no two are alike. There are some especially graceful ones, who look like they could incorporate their style into an adaptation of Swan Lake, and others whose progressions looks more like they practiced falling off the back of a loading truck. The sounds are also familiarly repetitive: the squeak of the clown shoes on the linoleum floor, the thud of the ball as it hits the lane, and the crackle as it makes contact with the pins. However, the difference between the sharp, instantaneous pow! (cue the old Batman clips!) coming from a strike hitting the pocket perfectly, and the dull cacophonous thud as the ball hits the 1 pin straight on causing some version of a split is couldn’t be greater. Personally, I never want to review my form on tape.  Stepping up to the ‘line’ (or whatever those three dots are actually called), I go through the motions with no hesitation or meditation, knowing that constructing a mental image of my sequence would only harm my fluidity of motion. Sometimes I’m great, other times not as much. I have no illusions about reaching the Everest of this sport, 12 strikes echoing one after another in resounding fashion. But the feeling a being ‘in the zone’ on the lanes is so intoxicating it keeps me coming back even after the most disappointing games. I started thinking about what it takes to make it in professional bowling. Watch this clip: one guy comes agonizingly close to a perfect game, the other one relieved to have simply reached triple digits. That’s fucking crazy! What other sport can you watch and legitimately say ‘I could do what that guy just did!’ Obviously, to consistently reach the upper echelon scores is a far cry from that one magical game where the strikes and spares were aplenty and you somehow spit out a 220. Nonetheless, it’s fascinating thought to ponder, albeit one that rarely crosses my mind. Most people in the league come for the camaraderie; to hang out with friends, drink good cheap beer and hopefully throw a few strikes. I come for pure, uninhibited peace of mind, and on that, the game delivers every time.

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