As an avid bowler, I've always wondered why the popularity of the sport has waned from its heyday in the 50's, 60's, 70's and 80's. Bowling is an activity enjoyed recreationally and competitively, by young and old, without any restrictions on weather.
It doesn't matter if you're short or tall, slim or portly. While bowling equipment can become pricey to the serious player, at its base, it's not a financially-straining game and one that everyone in the family can enjoy together.
Perhaps it's that very concept that fools the unwitting non-bowler into thinking it is not a true competitors' game, that there is limited athletic ability required, or that it's simply not "cool" anymore.
The PBA (Professional Bowlers Tour) has done a better job in recent years of publicizing itself and its players, but many years of neglect, and loss of its national telecasts on ABC (which used to be a staple) hurt the sport greatly.
In a "look at me" sporting environment, what was more of a gentleman's game became too vanilla for many. A closer look at today's professional ranks shows more animation and flair, without the poor sportsmanship in other sports.
What I love about bowling is that there is literally nobody to blame for a loss but yourself, and nobody to take credit but yourself, for a win. You can't blame your defense. No fluke goals. No botch by the replay official. No bogus foul call. No home field advantage.
It's you against your opponent. You each have one ball. Ten pins. 60 feet.
It would take quite a long time to explain all intricacies of how the top level of bowling is much different and much more difficult than what the regular bowlers like myself bowl on each week.
To oversimplify, every lane has oil on it, which, though unseen, has a dramatic effect on how the ball rolls and curves ("hooks") into the middle of the pins. The pros have much more difficult patterns to contend with. Accuracy, speed, consistency, and the ability to "see' how the oil has moved from shot to shot by reading the reaction of the ball, makes their profession a very physically demanding, but also mentally demanding game.
In short, me bowling a 220 on Wednesday night is not nearly the same as the 220 you see a pro shoot on TV. And therein lies the challenge of convincing the uninitiated that "No, you really CAN'T do what they do."
I tried it once. Bowled a regional tour event (think of it as tour qualifying). I thought I knew what I was up against. Boy, I did not have a clue. I average a shade over 200 in my Joe-Schmoe league. I was fortunate to shoot 170 with the big boys.
Nevertheless, I highly recommend that anyone seeking to challenge themselves, give the sport of bowling a look. It is difficult, challenging, and downright addictive too.
Bowling combines mental toughness, physical strength, flexibility, consistency, intelligence, with just a touch of controlled destruction (those of you who know the feeling of pins blasting back with that perfect strike know how good that feels).
And if you're just lucky enough to be in a zone one night and throw 12 strikes in a row for that perfect 300 game, it's something you'll never forget. I wear my ring proudly.
Give it an honest try. Buy yourself a ball. Take a lesson. Go watch a league one night, and the fun there is to be had. Bet ya a dollar you have a blast and can't wait to go again.
Good luck and good rolling!