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The Right Approach...Views on the world of bowling.

Volume 3, Issue 17, The 121th Edition
By Angel Zobel-Rodriguez

      In September, one of the leagues I bowl will reach a milestone. The Internet Invitational will begin its tenth incarnation. The league is unique because over the four years its bowled (with approximately three seasons a year), most of its 200 or so alumni have never met. As you might already have guessed, the Internet Invitational is an online league.

      Bowlers throw their games in their respective leagues at their respective bowling centers, come home, write a quick recap we call an update, and email it to the other members of the league. From there, people respond back, congratulating great scores, supporting each other through horrific slumps, and teasing and goading other bowlers and teams--just like any other "real" league.

      The updates made us realize we had more in common than we could have guessed, and we yearned to bowl for real. Over the years, many of us have gotten together for various tournaments including ABC, the Hoinke, the Lilac, and the Festival of Bowling. We shared congratulations with the newly married members and with the births of new baby bowlers. Many of us have gone from casual acquaintances to lifelong friends.

      Our members were celebrities and nobodies. We've had pro bowlers, people who work for the bowling industry, local men's and women's bowling association volunteers, and regular league bowlers. We've had adults averaging in the 130s all the way to the 220s. And now, we have Internet Invitational--The Next Generation. My son has joined the league. Originally he filled in during my self-imposed maternity leave, and now he has been permanently adopted by the league secretary. Since she does all the work, who am I to argue?

      And while we're talking about her, let me introduce her. Lisa Henkel does the week-in, week-out secretarial work to get the league sheets posted on BowlingFans.com. She does it simply for the love of the game. Once a season, she send me the league members, and I pop them in a spreadsheet and create teams closely based on average. She handles mailing the members the new rosters, patiently helps the less than computer literate set up address books, and then she handles the league sheets and emailing the league when the standings are ready.

      There will always be people who just don't "get" the idea. They want to know how we check for cheats. Well, we don't. Considering that teams are reformulated each season, and no one has won more than a couple times out of ten, I don't think anyone has tried. Or if they did, it didn't do any good. And more importantly, since we're not bowling for anything (no cash, no prizes, just bragging rights), why would anyone bother? And we lose a few members each session who never realized what it's gonna be like to receive email from up to 50 people a week.

      If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, several other online leagues have come, and most have gone bust like so many of the dotcoms. Most charged money and, I feel, for that reason, failed. The magic of the Internet Invitational resides in the notion we're in it just for the fun. We spend time getting to know each other as bowlers from around the country and the world. The bowlers aren't in it for the money, and the secretary isn't making a dime on them.

      There will always be people out there trying to reinvent the wheel. And I welcome that. But for me, one of the earliest is still one of the best--I thank the friendly folks who make the Internet Invitational the best there is.

Gotta Split,

Angel


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