Thursday, August 27, 2015

Sport, Not A Sport: Bowling

As bowling gears up for the beginning of it's Majors Season it seems appropriate to examine whether or not bowling is a sport, or not a sport. I'm kidding about the Majors Season. But you have to admit that I fooled you. Really, I don't think bowling has a defined season. They plan their events based on the most boring sports Saturday and Sunday afternoons throughout the year. No good football, baseball or basketball games happening? I hope you're ready for some 2pm semi-finals action, coming to you live from Columbus, Ohio!

Professional bowling is a sport that people are so vaguely aware of that you can say anything about it, with just a shred of confidence and they'll feign a mixture of interest and surprise. No one will question pro bowling's existence, but they won't be able to refute any claims you make. Oh, I didn't know they did Sprint Cup style scoring. You can't do that with Pro Ultimate Frisbee. You start talking MLU and most people will respond, "Really?! That's a thing?" We've all seen bowling on ESPN. Though we may not understand it's appeal, we already acknowledge it's existence. But no one knows enough to refute an assertion that the championship starts tomorrow.

Here are some real PBA events listed on the PBA website: PBA Xtra Frame Gene Carter's Pro Shop East Classic (THAT'S ONE EVENT), PBA Cheetah Championship, PBA Shark Championship, PBA International-World Bowling Tour UAE Open, and PBA International-World Bowling Tour It's Daejeon International Open. Events are held in Dohar, Qatar; Council Bluffs, Iowa; Las Vegas, Nevada; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Middletown, Delaware and Daejeon, Korea. All of that information sounds made up. What professional sports league holds events in Saudi Arabia and the 4th best city in Iowa? Council Bluffs makes sense. I would bet that bowling developed a stronghold as preferred pastime in CB, because you can only visit the Pottawattamie Squirrel Cage Jail and Museum so many times (Is that a jail for squirrels?). The funny thing is that on TV, all bowling events look like they're in Council Bluffs, because they're in a bowling alley, and all bowling alleys look the same. The audience is sitting in the shadows on risers, which is the vibe of Council Bluffs, a dimly lit bowling alley. We're coming to live from beautiful Riyadh.Whatever you say, Brent. I'll take your word for it. Arial view provided by the Goodyear blimp. 

Is that the Dark Tower?!

Naturally, Vegas is a host city (as is Reno). Vegas is what bowling enthusiasts consider an ideal vacation spot. It's the vacation spot for when you can't (or don't want to) think of a better idea, in the same way that bowling is the activity friends choose when they want to get out of the house but there aren't any good movies in theaters. "I guess we could go bowling," is the way every bowling excursion begins. Anyone legitimately excited by Vegas or bowling should be treated with suspicion. There's a reason that every movie centering around bowling is about misfit weirdos, creeps, and boderline-psychotics, because that's who can tolerate this game for more than 60 minutes twice a year.

Me when someone wants to go bowling.

In high school, I took a Lifetime Sports gym class. It focused, as the name implies, around activities you can play throughout your life, up to and including the decrepitude of old age. You know what people can't do well into their twighlight years? Play sports. The fact that badminton, archery, ping pong and bowling were included should tell you the physical ability they require. Grandpa might be able to shoot hoops or play catch, some aspect of a sport. He is not playing a game of half-court or two-hand touch. But he can bowl! Peak physical condition is not required to bowl at the peak level. Anyone can bowl a 300/perfect game. Hannah Diem did it at 9 1/2 years old, making her the youngest person to officially do so. The oldest person, according to, was 90 years old and requested to have their name withheld, presumably because being too good at bowling makes an otherwise cool person seem like they are not cool. Look at what it did to John Turturro. 

Hannah Diem was too young to think of having her name scrubbed from the record books. To her, bowling was something she did at her friends' awesome birthday parties, not a high intensity athletic endeavor. You don't even need to be a freakish athlete to be dominant at bowling. If Hannah or Name Withheld had gone up against this guy, 

If you can participate wearing dockers, it isn't a sport. 

it would have been a tie. Or a bowl-off. However you determine a winner after you're done bowling and you don't know who did it best. Look at that guy. He's the most famous bowler in America and I have no idea what his name is. 

And what kind of sport has a cap on the number of points you can score? That's for board games and youth sports leagues when you're still protecting fragile egos. There's no maximum number of goals in hockey or soccer, only the physical limitation of what a team can achieve in the allotted time. Bowling has a mercy rule built in. A real sport always contains the possibility of complete, unchecked annihilation. In fact, the only thing that makes bowling resemble a sport is keeping an objective score, and that's all. Players score definitive points. There are no judges. The pins either fell or they didn't. 

Bowling, like golf, also lacks the element of direct competition. There's no defense, only turns. You know how in Final Fantasy games when you "battle" an enemy everyone sits and waits for their turn to attack, and you're sitting there thinking, "What kind of Queensberry bullshit rules of engagement is this?" That's what bowling has. You launch your polished stone only after your opponent has taken his seat. If you can't play defense or directly effect your opponents actions then it can't be considered a sport. And the only way to effect your opponents performance in bowling is to order another pitcher of beer and secretly get them to drink it all. 

BOWLING: Not a sport. 

New rule learned: NO MERCY!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Dear Diary: Toupee or Not Toupee

Dear Diary,

I have a hairpiece problem. Not my hairpiece. I'm still sporting a full head of hair, but a few years ago, as I my days as a person in his 20s dwindled, I began mentally preparing to go bald. I have a widow's peak hairline, which in middle school got me teased for going bald. But I do kind of look like my hair is receding. It isn't (I swear!), but from time to time I will remind myself that it will. I will be bald. There are old wive's tales that indicate I won't go bald because my mother's father wasn't bald. My dad still has a good head of hair, but his dad was bald for all the parts of my life that I can remember. The point is, that even though the future is a mystery I am bracing for the probable, because I don't want to be mentally unprepared to face the insecurity that physical aging can bring. I'm learning to accept my fate now so I don't freak out and buy a bad rug.

The Donald knows if you're gonna grow old you gotta be tough.

My problem is other people's bad rugs. I don't know the protocol. Do I have to pretend like I'm fooled? What is my responsibility in maintaining the follicle ruse someone else has chosen to perpetrate? Obviously staring is rude and unnecessary. But if it's crooked or out of place do I have to say "Your hair is messed up?" Can I refer to as a hairpiece? I don't see why I should have to play dumb. If I'm able to determine that their hair isn't lying in the manner they probably would not like for it to be, why wouldn't I also be able to discern that it is not growing out of their head.

James Traficant. More like TrafiCan't even!

There was a man I used to see at large, extended-family functions (We were related, or so my mother claimed, I just don't know how) and, in addition to constantly arranging different configurations of family photos, he had an unconvincing, frequently askew wig. (Is there a difference between a wig and a hairpiece?) I always wondered how we, as his family, the people who are supposed to show him love and support even if it's in the form of hard truths, weren't telling him to straighten his 'do. Or better yet take it off and embrace his hairless head. If I'd been wearing a crooked hat or my fly was down someone would have told me. If I'd been wearing one of those radical faux-tattoo arm stockings no one would pretend that I had real tattoos. They would say "what made you decide to wear that?" because I'm from a family of non-confrontational Midwesterners who are too reserved to bust my balls for such a strange fashion choice.

Will he or won't he accept his smooth dome?

I know that everyone should wear what makes them feel comfortable and what allows them to be themselves. But I'm not playing dumb anymore. Wear your wig. If me referring to it as anything other than the luxurious locks nature bestowed upon you is disheartening then you need to work on why losing your hair upsets you and deal with that, or get a better hairpiece. I'm not going to put on a stunned face and tell you it looks so natural. It doesn't. You're fake hair looks weird and I saw it a mile away.

You're clearly trying to fool me with that mess, and it isn't working. Do you know who we pretend to be fooled by? Children. And I don't think I should treat you like a child.

That's cool, right?

Coach Bill Self doing it right. Can't even tell.