Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bowling for 7-year-olds

There's nothing cuter than watching bowling. Or rather, watching 7-YEAR-OLDS bowl.

I'm not a bowler. I've gone perhaps 5 times in my life, and in fact this past weekend was the first time I did so sober. Nonetheless, I'm always intrigued by the sport when I'm involved. The drama that unfolds during a game can be likened to many of the world's great sports, including bocce, table tennis, and extreme sock drawer reorganization. I noticed with this recent trip to a bowling alley that they have taken a new stance with marketing by adding disco balls, blacklighting, crazy 80's music, live Steeler games, and wild graphics on the scoring screens that block the view of the score at any given moment. I suppose just plain old bowling wasn't enough to keep up with a generation born on Nascar and Halo3.

Sunday was an Adventure Princess outing, a father-daughter round of bowling. It was a "scotch doubles tournament", with the tournament part being a bit of an overstatement. Each girl bowled the first ball and the dad attempted to round out a spare with what she left standing. I noticed quickly that in order for a 40lb young lady to heave a 7 lb ball 50 feet down a parquet runway, she must develop a style quickly.

My daughter's style was all about speed. Not so much the speed of the ball as it rolled, but the speed of getting ready for her turn when the time came. She would run to the ball tray to retrieve her little pink orb of destruction and run with it to the top of her lane, then toss it without pausing to breathe, aim, or ensure that the pins were placed and ready. Of course that last part isn't too important as it took a solid minute for the ball to roll all the way down to the other end of the lane.

Each of the girls had her own style. There was Sydney, who gave a little three-foot hop before releasing the ball and was all about using the bumpers for maximum angle. There was Jordana, who would calmly walk to the top of the lane, hold the ball with both hands, swing forward once, twice, three times, look behind her at her dad for confirmation, and release the ball without watching where it was going. Then there was Gabriella, who didn't so much toss the ball but dropped it at her feet, allowing the rest of the folks at that lane time for a quick bathroom break, a trip to the snack bar, and the completion of a Tom Clancy novel before the ball made its way to the pins.

But in the end there's one thing important to note. If a group of people with no bowling skills goes bowling, every player has an equal chance of playing well regardless of age, size, or number of fingers. My daughter got a strike and three spares herself. I never managed a strike, and I think I bowled two spares. The luck was similar across the board.

Really, it all came down to how hot the french fries were.

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