Bowl Like Everyone is Watching

Bowling lane at Lucky Strike in Bellevue, Washington

When bowling teams cry out in desperation, “Help! We’re winning too many points! Who will save us?”—I know just what to do. Bowling like a wild tornado that rips through gutters and puts a hole in the floor is my superpower. But I’ve not used my powers often enough and I’ve felt this gnawing feeling—like I shouldn’t just let myself “get soft”—not when there are so many points I can help other bowlers lose. This feeling grew particularly strong when I saw the wild, wild neon lights of the Lucky Strike bowling alley in Bellevue on my 47th birthday this weekend. I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to walk into the place and shout loudly above the disco music: “Everyone, settle down! It’s okay! I’m here to roll gutter balls, so relax! I’ve got you!” Of course, it was super cool to walk in there flanked by my superhero bowling team (Nate and Alex). On their birthdays, they like to come to the Bellevue Square Mall too, but they never suggest Lucky Strike bowling. I, on the other hand, mention it all of the time:

Me: Oooh! That bowling alley looks sooo cool! How about we go there sometime—for my birthday? We’re doing it—we’re totally doing it!

Nate: It’s bowling. I’m pretty sure we’ve been bowling before.

Me: Not like that. Lucky Strike is like celebrity, high rolling bowling—with funky music—and I bet people just start dancing. I’ll bet I just start dancing—and they serve drinks—in case I start dancing and you need to pretend to be drinking something.

Nate: Is that really what you want to do for your birthday?

Me: Yes, yes yes!!!

So, on Saturday, we were finally doing it. We were walking straight through the Lucky Strike doors—and my “personal theme song,” “I Got a Feelin’” by the Black Eyed Peas— echoed in my brain.  Nate, Alex, and I paid for two games because well, we didn’t want to overdo it or anything.

Now, I don’t want to brag, but I did take extensive bowling lessons for a combined eight weeks total during high school gym class my freshman and sophomore years. I learned the rules and actually tried to be a good bowler and sometimes, I think I made progress. On Saturday, all of that progress landed me a few strikes and spares, but mostly gutter balls and I think a lot of the gutter balls had to do with my “approach,” which consisted of the following steps:

1) Pick up a 10 lb. ball, even though a 5 lb. ball is probably all I could handle.

2) Swing the ball upward, so that it’s level in front of my chest and then pose and look serious.

3) Do a combination skip/waddle up to the line and swing the ball back, realizing it’s really really heavy, and hoping it doesn’t slip out of my hands because the finger holes are incredibly big as well.

4) Listen for the “cracking” sound as it hits the floor.

5) Cheer wildly when the ball veers completely off course and into the gutters—cheering because at least the ball didn’t bounce out of the lane and into someone else’s beer.

It wasn’t until the day after bowling, when I woke up with an aching wrist and shoulder, that I thought to ask myself, “What could I have done better?” So, I performed a highly technical key word search in Google that contained the following words: how to bowl. Amazingly, when I went about three or four pages beyond the first page of results, I found “,” which is the official website for the United States Bowling Congress (USBC). The USBC is the national governing body of bowling and the keeper of standardized rules and regulations.

On the website, I found an article about the “approach” for rolling a bowling ball. This article contains highly encouraging advice, such as the following: “It’s as easy as 1-2-3-4, just like walking down the street.” Except, instead of the street, you’re on a slick bowling alley lane and there’s a very heavy ball in your hand. Also, your fingers feel greasy and you swear they are beginning to itch as well, so you have to gently remind yourself not to rub your eyes or stick your fingers in your mouth.

In any case, there are some useful steps in this article, which I’ve summarized here for your convenience:

1) Find the “perfect” distance from which to start the approach. I think it would be fun to start out in the parking lot and come tearing through the place shouting, “Move!” However, the USBC probably has rules against such a thing—for many, many good reasons. Instead, you’re supposed to walk up to the line (without the bowling ball), turn around, and take four ½ normal steps back towards the drink menu on the table.

2) Get into the stance. When I first came across this step on the USBC website, I was left to my own imagination. Once I stopped laughing, I realized there was an illustration near the bottom of the page. Here’s the link—just remember to scroll down when you get to the second step. ( The Approach)

3) Walk and swing the ball at the same time. Don’t even try to imagine this move. There are illustrations on the USBC website, thank goodness. Just remember to scroll down.)

4) Do the “slide.” It’s this little “kicky” thing at the end and Nate can do it really well. I’d say that’s his super power. When I saw him bowl yesterday, I said, “Ooh, honey! Swing it! Swing that back leg! Whoo!” He never reacted to my antics though, probably because his “personal theme music” was echoing too loudly in his head. However, I wish I had gotten a picture, so I tried to get him to demonstrate his bowling moves this morning so that I could post an extremely helpful picture to readers of this blog. Here’s how that went:

Me: Hey, Nate. Can you pretend like you’re bowling? I need to get a picture of that back leg swing thing you do.

Nate: I’m busy.

Me: Come on, please?

Nate: I’m busy planning our vacation to Hawaii.

Me: Perfect! The islands of Hawaii desperately need good bowlers. Nate? Nate—are you listening? Nate?

But he never answered me—probably because his personal theme song (Wheezer’s “Island in the Sun”)—was just too darn loud. So, I was forced to draw a picture. As you can clearly see, the leg swings back—just like walking down the street:

Very crude drawing, in red ink, of a stick figure rolling a bowling ball down a lane. The right foot is attempting to swing back.  Drawing by Cecilia Kennedy

Your Turn: Do you have any bowling tips? Or: If you had your own theme song—something that just started playing any time you entered a room—what would it be?











32 thoughts on “Bowl Like Everyone is Watching

  1. Happy Birthday! Glad you had fun and courteously included us. 🙂 I haven’t been bowling in years. In fact, I believe I’ve only gone once. I had a good time, if I remember right. Hmmm… theme song when I walk into a room… never thought about that one, but I do like “Mars” from Holst’s The Planets. Other people know it better as “The Imperial March” or “Darth Vader’s Them.” Yes, John Williams borrowed heavily from Holst. 🙂


  2. Happy birthday, and I enjoyed this piece! I bowled on a league for several years, decades ago, mostly just to get out of the house in the evenings and spend time with friends. I won an award one of those years for the lowest average in the whole league:)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks–so glad you enjoyed it! My sister used to bowl in a league with her husband–she might still do it. She made it sound like so much fun. If we had a lane closer to our house, I think I’d do it more often.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a great post, really grinning away here. I’ve got no bowling tips – I spend more time in the gutter than most politicians – but I did have a personal theme song, used only when entering a classroom and getting thirty high school kids under control = “Imperial March” (Darth Vader’s Theme) which would just automatically start playing when I got psyched for riot control mode. Those Jedi mind tricks actually work.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Love this!!! You might hit the gutters once in a while, but I am the absolute queen of bad bowlers. Up here in Maine, we have Candlepin Bowling. I capitalize it for effect! This type of bowling uses much smaller balls than the usual type. I was really horrible at that game, but the epitome of my bowling failures came about the first time I tried to bowl with the big balls. I got into position, swung the ball back and suddenly realized the ball had left my possession during the backswing! The fact that everyone in my party survived was a miracle! Next time you give yourself a hard time for a gutter ball, just think of me and I promise you’ll feel better! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I came today via a link and recommendation on The Lockwood Echo. I’m glad to say she still hasn’t let me down yet, her links always lead me to highly entertaining places.
    Off to practise my ‘Nate’.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Too funny. Many moons ago my work organised a bowling ‘tournament’, I’d never bowled before even though my partner at the time bowled for a team. I came home with 2 trophies, proving that my colleagues were even worse than me! I’ve taken this advice seriously, even went and looked at ‘The Stance’. Great illustration by the way, your Nate clearly has a natural flair for this game.

    Liked by 1 person

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