Monday, July 26, 2010


Why don't you come to your senses? You been out sniffing glue for so long now. As if I didn't have enough reasons to not go bowling this summer until this happened. Memo to bowling: associating yourself with prepubescent pop icons is not going to help the sport in the long term. This is disturbing. Really disturbing. Only one phrase adequately describes this news: What the fuck?

So, we all know that bowling has a credibility problem. Some would chalk it up to score inflation from technological advancement. Others would say it's a cultural thing. So, there has been somewhat of an effort to change the image of the sport. One approach that is commonly used by the USBC is to point out that celebrities, like Chris Paul, actually enjoy bowling. I remain dubious of the effectiveness of this tactic, but who knows, maybe there's something to it.

Anyway, somehow I came across this unfortunate news item. I really don't know how to react. Well, yes I do. I'm ashamed. Very ashamed. Why should I even bowl anymore? Well, it gets worse. I went to the website for the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame and voted for my favorite celebrity. Why? I wanted to see the vote tallies. Here is what I discovered:

It's a tight race between Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift. Swift has a 4,000 vote lead out of nearly 800,000 cast. Meanwhile my candidate, Bill Murray, comes in at 6th with 628 votes. Damn it, people!!!! Vote for Mr. Bill. So, let me get this straight. Depending on which group of screaming tween girls wins the battle, either Taylor Swift or Justin Bieber will enter the Bowling Hall of Fame? That's fucking ridiculous. Why you ask? Well, Taylor Swift "has been frequently spotted and photographed hitting the lanes with celebrity friends like Selena Gomez and Cory Monteith." OMG!!!!! You go girl!!!!! Bieber? He did this.

So, let me ask you this Bowling Hall of Fame. I once took a dump in a bowling alley, does that get me a nomination? Let me put it another way. This little stunt is not going to get more people to bowl. It makes you look desperate for attention, desperado. Coupled with the recent Palin speech, the Bieber stunt betrays the truth about bowling- it is not cool, and you so wanna be. You want people to go the lanes? Here's an idea. Why don't you replace the old run down and out of date lanes with the smoky bars and rolling hot dog concession stands in the industrial part of town with places people actually want to go. If you get a group of 13 year old girls to go bowling this summer, I guarantee you that they will figure out in about 2 seconds that they aren't likely to see Bieber shuffling his feet around the hardwood.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Bowl at your own risk

I'm going to guess that most of you have never considered the dangers of bowling. Sure, you might come down with a case of bowler's thumb, or tendonitis of the wrist. Perhaps you have seen someone cross the foul line and land with a hard thud on their back as their feet slide across a greased lane. Yes, my friends, you can be hurt in the bowling alley. But did you know that bowling can lead to death?

Consider the sad case of Samuel Dickey and George Fleming who met their untimely deaths on September 14, 1870 in Memphis, Tennessee. A fight broke out between Dickey and Fleming over a game of tenpin bowling. No doubt Dickey had hustled Fleming by misrepresenting his ability. Dickey left the lanes and went to a nearby store to buy a gun to go hunting. Shortly thereafter, Fleming walked in with a double-barreled shotgun and pulled the trigger. Dickey was hit, but still managed to get off a shot of his own, killing Fleming instantly. Both men died on the scene. And that my friends is why you shouldn't cheat at bowling. Don't believe me? You can read it yourself in the New York Times:

And if you got through that, you also now know why you shouldn't discipline other people's dogs.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Brooklyn Strike and the Optimal Pocket

My paternal grandmother was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. I am well into my fourth decade, but I have only visited that borough once. Still, it seems familiar to me. You could hear Brooklyn in the way she spoke. Recently, I sat next to a woman on an airplane who reminded me so much of my grandmother that I instantly knew she was also a native of Brooklyn, although she had long since moved away. I guess I have some kind of strange cultural connection to the place. Maybe this is why my bowling ball is so happy to collide with the pins on the Brooklyn side.

A while back, I asked, "What's wrong with Brooklyn?" I find it interesting how bowlers are often apologetic about getting a Brooklyn strike because it was an unintentional and accidental good outcome. You screwed up, and yet you were rewarded. Hell, I think that's something to celebrate. Anyway, in that post, I wrote the following of the Brooklyn pocket:

What is interesting, though, is that it is my impression that if I hit the 1-2 pocket, I have a better chance of getting a strike than if I hit the 1-3 (I am right-handed). Still, I always aim for the 1-3 because that's what you're "supposed to do". Conventional wisdom is a funny thing. There are many forms of knowledge derived from many places, but conventional wisdom grows from consensus. If a large majority of people believe something to be true, many other people will simply accept it as truth without much thought. The conventional wisdom in bowling is that for right-handed folk, it is better to hit the 1-3 pocket than the 1-2. Is this true? I have no idea.

Well, during the last bowling season, I decided to investigate this question. It's not a very difficult thing to do. I simply recorded outcomes of ball that struck the 1-2 or 1-3 pockets to ask the question, "What percentage of pocket balls resulted in strikes for the normal and Brooklyn pockets?" I was simply trying to determine what is the optimal target for bowlers, or is there even a difference between the two? I should note that I considered any ball which first struck the 1 pin and then the 2 or 3 be in a "pocket". Ok, here's what I found...

I recorded a grand total of 353 balls in the pocket. Of those, 261 connected with the "normal pocket", and 92 found the Brooklyn side. Of those that hit the normal pocket, 138 resulted in strikes, or 52.9%. On the Brooklyn side, 39 resulted in strikes or 42.4%. In other words, in this case conventional wisdom appears to be correct. It is optimal to aim for the "normal" pocket because your chances of getting a strike are approximately 10% better than on the Brooklyn side.

That said, I think it is important to note that in the case of every one of these 353 balls thrown, all were intended to connect with the normal pocket. When they did connect with the Brooklyn side, it was accidental. So, it is possible that the lower percentage on the Brooklyn side could be attributed to less accurate strikes. It would be interesting to repeat this experiment with intentional targeting of the Brooklyn pocket to see if the result holds. In the meantime, just keep doin' what you're doin'.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bowling Crime: The ATM Bandit

One common method for enhancing the profitability of bowling alleys is to install privately owned ATM machines. This way, bowling alley owners can charge you fees for accessing the money you are going to pay to them anyway. Thus, it is a convenient way to turn your $20 into $22 for the lanes. It also gives incentive for the lanes to refuse credit cards, which not only establish a clear paper trail of gross proceeds (thus making tax cheating difficult), but also cost businesses a fixed percentage for every transaction made. In other words, having a cash only business with your own ATM machine has many benefits for the slimy business owner.

Well, slimy business owners, meet slimy ATM thief. David Pendergrast cleverly learned how to reprogram certain models of ATMs to dispense $20 bills while recording $1 transactions. To do so, he looked up default passwords on the internet and punched them in. By this technique, he is known to have stolen some $40,000. One of his targets was Hudsonville Lanes in Hudsonville, Michigan. Here's a tip to all you bowling alley owners charging patrons a couple of bucks to get their money: change the password on the machine before you fill it full of money.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A mild itch

In Laramie, Wyoming, summer is a cherished time. It refers to the time between June 28 and July 21 when you leave the windows open in your house. Well, not wide open. You don't want to let the mosquitoes in, do you? Anyway, the 19 days of summer are the only days when you can be outside. Accordingly, on these days, the Movements take advantage of the opportunity to do other things, such as trout fishing, golf, nude speed walking, and yard work.

Still, I can't help but hear a whisper in the wind. Something calls me from the north. You see, I have not placed a 14 lbs ball into my hand in nearly two months. On the way down the mountain from slaying the trout on Saturday, I mentioned to the other two senior BM's my interest in rekindling the bowling flame. Johnebob said, "I'm not bowling again until Week 1 of the season." I replied, "You don't even want a warm up after the informational meeting?" He said, "Remember when Joe and I were out of town, and we needed you to go to the informational meeting, and you said, 'Hell no!'." I said, "Really?"

The point of that pointless dialog is that I think I need to hit the Lanes of Laramie. I think I need to let the Black Stallion out of her stable. I think I need to punish the pins once again. If my dream of dreaming about being a PBA bowler is ever to come true, I need to unleash my black and green balls from their sack. This week I will do so. The question is, what will I bowl? Only Pinnius knows.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

I remember my mom bowling in 1972

For those of you who missed it, Sarah gave her big speech at the Bowling Proprietors' Association of America's International Bowl Expo 2010. I'm sure the BPAA got what they paid for... a well thought out, folksy analysis of the state of the sport coupled with her views on the macro- and microeconomic context of bowling and how it relates to the changing demographics of both the country and the game.

My favorite moment was when Sarah recalled fond memories of her dad's bowling league in Idaho, memories that formed when she was an infant less than three months in age. Similarly, some of my fondest in utero memories were of my mother bowling in late 1972. Snuggled up in her womb, I recall hearing the muffled sounds of balls rolling and pins crashing down.

Of course, there was also this moment at the expo when some dude seemed way too excited to meet the quitter governor.

Now I shall retreat back to my bowling hibernation cave.