Friday, December 4, 2009

The Man Spare

Everything in bowling has a name. Everything. When I started bowling again, I had no idea how lexically advanced this game is. There are terms I regularly use, of which I have no clue of their etymology, like the word "brooklyn". There are other terms, like "Greek Church", which I have heard used, but I have no idea what they mean. I just looked that one up. In this strange world of bowling terminology, I would like to think the Movements have made a solitary contribution, but I know that this particular occurrence must have already have a name. We call it the "man spare".

That name is not intended to be sexist by any means. Lady bowlers out there are always welcome to pick up a man spare. It feels great to do so, and it will not impact your femininity or alternative gender identity. What is the man spare? I occasionally refer to it by another name, the "Dash-Slash". It simply means chucking your first ball in the gutter and picking up all ten on the 2nd. Despite a valiant attempt to Google the actual name of this occurrence (lasting all of about 30 seconds), I could not find one. So, it is now officially the "man spare".

Lately, it seems like I have had a lot of opportunities to pick up man spares. I wonder if it is a consequence of throwing a hook and losing the ball to the right. It seems like I have even seen this happen to professional bowlers from time to time. That said, our rookie, a straight thrower, seems to have plenty of man spare leaves. In fact, he gets to try convert the much coveted man spare on average once every 5.5 games. This is slightly less than JD and JL who do it about once every 4.9 games. For me, it's once every 8.5 games.

So, there you stand red faced having just thrown your first ball in the gutter. How do you respond? Do you try to throw your normal strike ball? It's not an easy thing to do because some 45 seconds prior, you tried to do exactly that, and the outcome was a channel ball. As a consequence, I often overcompensate and end up far to the left of the pocket. It's a tricky thing from which to recover, a classic bowling mind f@&k.

I thought I would check our team's man spare conversion rates. One would think that they should be pretty similar to our strike percentages. After all, it's an identical situation, except it isn't. Physically, it is identical. Mentally, it's completely different.

When I did this, I got mixed results. Surprisingly, the Rookie comes out on top. The Rook only strikes around 18% of his frames, but he has converted more than 40% of his man spare leaves! Now, this is probably an aberration of the numbers, meaning that it is not meaningful statistically. In science, you would say that this is not a significant difference because he hasn't had many opportunities to try to pick up man spares, only seven to be exact. Of those, he has converted three. In fact, none of these differences are significant. Our samples are just too small.

Johnebob shows a similar trend. He has struck 29% of his frames but converted nearly 37% of his man spares, of which he has had 19 opportunities. JD and I show the opposite trend. JD has two conversions in 20 tries, and I am 3 for 11. For the team as a whole, both conversion rates are nearly identical, around 27%.

So, in short, despite the mental aspects of the man spare, we seem to approach them as we would a strike. To be honest, I found this a bit surprising. Perhaps with larger samples, real differences will emerge, but it will take a long time to get that sample because these things don't come around very frequently. Maybe that's why they don't have a name. They are rare and only a regular occurrence for crappy bowlers. Perhaps I should start building the bad bowler glossary.


  1. Again, you amaze me. Using a phrase like "lexically advanced" in a bowling blog with abandon... And since you're such a charthead, I dedicate the 20th song on this one to you, brother:

  2. That's an impressive playlist.

    I was just listening to Slayer's new album, and I'm going to assume the song 'Unit 731' isn't about war, a death machine, and peoples' flesh on the wall.

    Instead I envision a 731 series, as the 'X-rays burn all that you can see' line obviously refers to plethoric series of strikes and the 'knowing now the dead still see line' is an obvious reference to, our teammates who have moved onto the 10-pin lanes in the sky.

  3. I just listened to that tune. It's kind of creepy. But everything Garland is kinda creepy.

  4. I view the first ball gutter ball as a failure in execution in most instances. Very few gutter balls are a failure in concept. As such, I approach the "man spare" in the same way I do my first ball.

  5. Regarding the term Brooklyn in bowling, here's a little geoetymology (okay, I made that up-- lexically amazing, ain't it?) for you: I read somewhere (near the end of the Internet, before I turned back) that it was coined somewhere in the seat of American bowling, New Jersey (Brunswick, most likely). Facing northeast, Brooklyn was to the left, Manhattan to the right (which is why a right-handed strike on the right side is called a Manhattan)...

  6. Khrog, I think you are right on the money. Definitely a failure in execution. But it is still so fresh in the muscle memory that it is daunting to try to do what I just did but this time, to do it correctly.

    EB, did you make that up? If so, it's brilliant. If not, it's fascinating. Oh, you made up the "geoetymology" part. Either way, what a cool story.

  7. [well, I was 90% right...copied this from]

    Brooklyn refers to shots that "crosses over" the 1-3 pocket for right-handers and 1-2 for left-handers and produces a strike. It originated in New York where people would "cross over" to Brooklyn from Manhattan. A side term "Jersey side" references left-handers and refers to people crossing over from Manhattan to New Jersey.

    [can't vouch for the source, but I've seen a similar definition somewhere else]

  8. Besides the simple Jersey-side or Manhattan-side strike names, another legend holds that a Brooklyn was considered a sloppy strike made by a right-hander (presumably in Manhattan), and became so named during a time when the Brooklyn Dodgers were playing sloppy baseball on the other side of town.

    [Tried to track down the source, but no luck-- so take this for what it's worth.]


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