Bowling the Lost Art

April 22, 2016

When I heard my neighborhood bowling alley was closing because the lease was getting too expensive, a wave of sadness came over me. You just can’t pack up a bowling alley and move it somewhere else and start over. It’s gone and slowly the era of bowling dies another death.  The great indoor and year-round sport loses to economics and a changing demographic that rather play a video game version. The older generation of leagues of bowlers has not brought the next generation of bowlers to the sport.

Let’s face the truth, bowling has never been considered a sexy sport. I don’t see a lot sexy people in the bowling alley more do I go there for that. It’s about honing your craft, competing, hanging with buddies, talking trash, fist pumping, drinking long necks and enjoying a sport that doesn’t require 1000 bucks in equipment. Even if you don’t have the equipment you can rent the alleys stuff at a reasonable rate. Bowling has always been ridiculed for the people that regularly play and has been mocked in movies like the Big Lebowski and Kingpin. I get it, the sport has a wide span of players and embraces anybody who decides to play. On contrary, you can go to any bowling alley on most weeknights and see a large variety of people in bowling leagues that ranges from CEO’s and doctors to manual laborers and barbers.

Bowling also gets a bad rap about the debate of is it’s a sport or more of a past time. Ridiculous.   The practice and hours spent by many of bowlers will tell how hard it is to develop consistent rolling motion. The beauty of the curve that can pick up a 7 -10 split cannot be accomplished without attention focused on precision and form.  The same can be said for golf but then golf never really gets the ridicule that bowlers hear. There is a bit of snobbery when it comes to golf versus bowling but then again, I don’t care for those who criticize something they themselves are only mediocre at.

The history of professional bowlers is long storied. A lot of us were introduced to professional bowling through the dulcet tones of Chris Shenkel on Wide World of Sports. He covered professional bowling for thirty five years as it became one of ABC’s signature sports on Saturday afternoon.

The bowling alley sprung up and languished from 1950’s to the 1970’s and were packed with serious bowlers, families and lonely people. Now the decline has been on the wall for past thirty years due to the high cost of space and labor. I have a feeling it will become a fringe sport with smaller alleys like a pool hall. Unfortunately, the cost to bowl will increase just because of the laws of economics with the reduction of open lanes. I am sure most of us that are sad about the passing of our beloved childhood establishment into something less cool like a drugstore.   The beauty of bowling is the fact that it is a sport for everybody and if you want to be really good at it, you can get paid.

I will always remember the time I brought a first date to go bowling because if she couldn’t show her fun side at the beginning then she wasn’t right for me. We didn’t go on a second date.    Life goes on and bowling will as well, no matter how many alleys get closed.