So, there’s this thing I do when I bowl. Yes, the sport with the ball with three holes and the long, oily lane with 10 pins at the end of it. It’s a little ritual; I’m not sure what else to call it. When it’s my turn, I walk up to the ball return. If the area has those little blowing fans, I hold my right hand over it for a couple of seconds (otherwise I shake my fingers in front of my mouth while I blow softly on them), then I spin my ball with my left hand to where the holes face up. I have to minimize the oil on my bowling fingers. I pick up the ball with my right hand, using my bowling fingers to check the grip, then I gently, yet quickly drop the ball in the crook of my bent left arm as I find my position on the approach. I stand with the middle front dot between my big toes. My feet are together. With the ball cradled in my left arm, I vertically slide my bowling fingers down into the ball. I flip the ball over with my left hand and bring the ball close to my body, so that my right palm is facing up and the ball is resting on my hand. I gently rock the ball up and down a few times, to get a feel for the weight. I look up at the pins. I sight the middle arrow, and my eyes follow the lane to the “pocket.” I bend my neck to the left, and I raise my right shoulder to remind myself not to lower that shoulder when I release my shot. I take a deep breath. I bend my knees, keeping my aim between the middle dot and its immediate right neighbor at the foul line. I step forward, left foot first, then right, left, arm swinging back, then right as I swing the ball forward then slide on my left as I release the ball, hopefully with enough momentum. If I don’t lower my shoulder or turn my wrist, and if my wrist doesn’t fall limp, the ball pretty much stays the course I visualized for it, and I don’t do too shabby in the frame.
It’s not a pretty approach – I don’t extend my right leg all the way back while my left leg executes the perfect, simultaneous bend-and-slide while my upper body stays still with a smooth follow-through with my arm as the ball leaves my hand. However, once I find a rhythm, this little ritual is effective. That doesn’t mean I’m the best bowler in the world. I’ve never broken 200, but I’ve never not broken 37. I think that was my first ever score as a 6 or 7-year old. It does mean I’ll be pretty consistent throughout the game, with marks (strikes or spares) in about half the frames.
There is an exception to this, however. If I overthink it, I promise you I will choke. Part of every game is mental. And 60 feet is a long way for a ball to decide to go haywire and spin off the lane into the gutter or miss the pin by a googolplexth of a picometer.
Of course, luck plays a huge part in bowling. That last pin can teeter and fall, or it can find its way back to upright just as easily. Those are especially frustrating, but also fun to watch when the bowler is at the foul line. No matter how much he jumps up and down or leans his body over or air-kicks the pin from 60 feet away, he’s not going to change the pin’s mind. The bowler is at the pin’s mercy; the pin is the grand arbiter of the universe for those few seconds in seemingly random frames during a game. It sucks.
So tonight, during our department holiday bowl (that was a pretty tough Mad Gab – see title) this evening, let’s just say I demonstrated the perfect balance of technique (that’s the word!) and bad luck in two separate games. In game 1, I did decently and felt good about contributing strongly to my team’s efforts in winning. Game 2 was a choker. Most of us did badly, and we were worried that other teams would crush our average. You see, the team with the highest average in the two games wins half a day off tomorrow. The SVP was on our team during game 1, when we performed well. He left before game 2, and since we didn’t score as high we thought the SVP would be mad at us for throwing our lead. At the end of it all, it turned out we squeaked by with a higher average than the next best team, by 3 points. So, I call our game 2 “performing poorly enough to keep the stakes interesting.”
Once we finished game 2, and all pressure was off, we decided to keep bowling until the end of our allotted time. Dang, I wish I’d had that attitude during game 2, because two of my first 3 frames were spares. Then, our time was up and the lanes shut down on us. Just as well. Luck, technique. Bah.
That’s as in “…humbug,” not “…baa black sheep.”
And do you know what they called me when it was my turn to bowl? Do you know what they chanted? “All-the-way May! All-the-way May!” I cannot have that sort of reputation at the office, and not have it be true. So I’ll get working on that. Come hither, wink-wink.
I hope no one screwed up the math and I get to go home early tomorrow. Non-bowling fingers crossed.