Bowled Over

There are a handful of sports in the world I like to call “Pseudo-Sports.” These include games like ping pong, horseshoes, bowling, darts, and so forth. Basically, anybody can play these at any time, and the very best people in the world at them are not famous or millionaires (unlike football, baseball, basketball…etc.) Sometimes when you play these sports enough, you start to get good at them, and think that maybe you could have a future in them, before you realize that it’s a pipe dream.

In a related story, I’m 90% sure I could be a professional bowler with some more practice.

I know, I know, you watch the guys on TV with the crazy spin on their shots, the constant closing frames, and the ungodly ugly shirts, and say to yourself, “Dave, you’re an idiot; you couldn’t do that even if you sold your soul.”

(Wait…no one watches bowling on TV? So I’m the weirdo that actually does? Got it. Just trust me, all the things I described up there actually are present in professional bowling.)

I’ve got a good reason why I could succeed at this: I’m actually not half bad. I’ve bowled over 200 multiple times and rarely am ever under 150. (The perfect score is, of course, 300.) After hitting five strikes in a row to start a game last winter at a company bowling outing, I was asked, “Wow! Are you a professional?” Of course I’m not, if I were a professional would I work for the company that we’re going on this outing for? That might have been one of the dumber questions I’ve ever been asked. Yet, I was still flattered. Flattered so much that I’m writing a column about it now…so thanks!

I’ve got my own ball and shoes…In fact, I’ve got a list as to all the things you need to be a professional bowler.

Your own ball and bag – This is an absolute must.  The relation between a bowler and his ball is almost spiritual. There’s a reason the media always shows a bowler talking to his ball like it’s an old friend.  You can’t go and pick up one of the bowling alley balls and expect to bowl a perfect game with it. It takes time to get to know your round friend and figure out exactly how it will spin down the lane for that perfect curve. Which leads to…

Curving the throw – It’s just physics at this point, your margin of error on getting a strike is considerably larger if you curve the throw rather than coming straight on. The spin must be mastered in order to even have a hope of a perfect game. I’ve seen people get pretty good when throwing a straight ball, but every professional uses the spin.

Make your routine – Maybe your pre-throw routine is as simple as taking a deep breath, or cracking your neck. Maybe it’s a little more extreme like moving your arms around like a windmill before picking up the ball or kissing your fingers before throwing. Maybe you’ve got twinkle toes like Fred Flintstone. Regardless of what your pre-throw routine is, you have to follow it when things are going well, and abandon it as soon as it things are going bad. A lot of people will attribute a routine like that to superstition, and say that things like that don’t matter. Well in a game like bowling, where consistency is everything, mental focus is unbelievably important. If you’ve got mental focus…you’ve got a chance. If that comes off as superstitious, then so be it.

Have no Life – This is really what’s holding me back. Between being engaged, searching for a new car, work, and writing for this website, I don’t bowl very often. Which is the only real reason I’m not a professional (or so I keep telling myself). Pretty much every professional athlete in history has the trait where their sport is their life and nothing else. Jason Kidd had a quote that said, “Making the NBA isn’t just putting the hard work in practice. It’s going to the gym on Friday when your friends are going out to work on your jumper and ball handling.”

So basically…could I be a professional bowler? Maybe, but I need to abandon life as I know it. Just so I can wear an ugly shirt, and eventually have a pot belly and a comb-over. Besides the dream about it is probably a million times better than actually doing it.

That being said, when I bowl my 300 game, I’m ditching life and going pro. No doubt.

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