Volume 1, Issue 28
By Angel Zobel-Rodriguez
After spending a recent weekend watching friends bowl in a World Team Challenge event, I realized how great it was to see so many teams in matching shirts. It wasn't required on the first day of qualifying, but for teams who made the cut to matchplay (and the Baker system), team shirts were a necessity. The Baker system, where each member bowls just two frames in each game, really contributes to the "team concept," but beyond just that, seeing the teams bowling in team shirts was reminiscent of a bygone era.
I realize that the days are mostly gone when local businesses sponsored teams by supplying the shirts in return for the advertisement it generated--with the bowlers becoming a sort of walking billboard. But there was nothing better during the WTC than seeing each group of five participants in team togs. At lunch, it became a source of amusement to watch the hostess and servers do double takes as group upon group entered a local restaurant wearing matching shirts.
It's probably pretty late in the bowling season to get a league team outfitted in matching shirts (unless they consider springing for them for the holidays). And honestly, it's pretty hard to get a group of people to agree to wear a matching team shirt for up to 36 weeks in a row, but it's not too early to start thinking about those city, state, and national tournament teams. That makes it a one-time shot in a tournament situation that demands teamwork. Buy something that the bowlers can wear again later, and half your battle is won. My doubles partner for Syracuse and I are already scheming on attire, since our team shirts will be taken care of as part the Team Internet troop.
Sometimes the team togs concept gets a little more involved than matching polos. I'll admit that the first time I bowled (as a last-minute replacement) in the California State tournament with some friends, I was a bit embarrassed that we won "Lookin' Good" awards. Nonchalantly, the team captain told me they win this pin every year, since the one member personally makes colorful, fitted vests for each teammate. I soon found out that teams actually VIE for this honor.
To me, "matching" usually just means team shirts, but some teams match down to the socks. Since I was new to the team, I just wore what was given to me, but soon I was laughing off the sneers we encountered when the officials handed out the pins. Just remembering this incident sent me scurrying to see if I could find the pin (and after some digging, I did).
OK, so the idea of wearing polo-style team shirts lacks originality? How about Hawaiian shirts like a friend of mine chose for her team this season? Considering the personalities on the team, it was a perfect fit. Also after talking a friend who does embroidery, there are tons of different ways of using the lettering to make a shirt stand out. From the cutesy-sweetsy look of first grade lettering, to the exotic look of islander-influenced lettering.
Ways to team unity can also occur beyond matching shirts, though. My doubles partner and I each have a shoe charm (yes, they make jewelry for shoes), handmade by another friend that is a tiny pewter hammer--in homage of our favorite bowling ball, a shiny (if not old) Pink Hammer. Mind you, we live in different states, but every time I look down to count my boards, I think of her. We were nuts enough to ask the person taking the pictures in Reno (when we bowled on different teams) to let us come back and take a picture with our "Pinkies." So between squads, we ran past the equipment check-in folks, removed the ugly green Bolts that were on display, and proudly posed with our spare balls. That picture now graces several spots on the Web.
No matter how you decide to bond with your teammates, remember, bowling is a team thing. When the pins aren't going your way, you still have your team chemistry to keep you going. Shirts can't help anyone win a game, but they will help you stay connected.