Volume 2, Issue 14, The 66th Edition
By Angel Zobel-Rodriguez
They should have named this summer league "The Survivors." We had been bowling this poor league all summer, starting out as six teams, adding one, dropping one, then another, then another. We finally seemed to settle in for the long haul when we reached a meager field of four teams of four bowlers each.
Towards the end of the league we joked a bit about the measly prize fund that was going to be left. The president and I approached the bowling center management and suggested maybe we take the prize fund and turn it into a buffet table for the bowlers. We sat down with one of the managers, and he told us he'd provide our league with hors d'oeuvres, pizzas, soft drinks for free. Turns out it was his birthday, too. The president's wife offered to bring a cake for the league and to celebrate our "beneficiary's" birthday as well.
Sixteen bowlers doesn't make for the most exciting sweepers. I know parts of the country just hand out their prize envelopes (or issue checks) and send people on their merry way, but there's something about bowling one last time together, and bowling in combinations of singles and doubles events that finishes a league's season just right. What started out as a joke a few weeks before league's end caught fire, and there we were turning the lights out and turning up the music.
As for the league's place money, the good news was that the teams that did drop out graciously waited long enough that we could afford to pay the top four spots as if the teams that quit were the last two place teams. The teams at the bottom got more than they would have if the quitters had stayed. So during the festivities, we thanked them in their absence for quitting.
Actually, we had enough left over in the prize fund, we decided to throw a few colored pins in the racks and pay for strikes with a colored head pin. In our group, we had high-average bowlers, returning to bowl either with family or friends, and we had beginning bowlers in their first league. And there we were, bowling with the lights out, the music up, and cheering for everyone. We'd wait for the pinsetters to reset, and then the hooting and hollering would begin again. We're talking about a span of four lanes, so everyone really was on display during those shots.
Throwing a strike on demand, in the dark, isn't the easiest thing to do, so faced with ample prize money remaining after the first game, we upped it to $2 a strike. That game, we were still having fun, but as a league threw fewer strikes. The last game, we announced we were going for $3 a strike. Passersby might think we were bowling for big money if they judged us by the fanfare. We weren't; we were just having a great time.
The house put out an incredible spread with so much food that we were feeding spouses and children who weren't part of the league. Some of them started to open bowl a few lanes down. My son and his friend were dancing on the chairs in the bowling settee, mimicking some of the league bowlers who were bebopping between frames. I'd wander down just long enough to check on them before I had to go back to handing out dollar bills from the envelope.
As the festivities wound down, we were tabulating scores, and determining the winners. We tried to pay flat enough that everyone seemed to win something. In all my years of bowling, I don't remember having this much fun during a sweeper--or in league for that matter. I don't remember when in my learning curve that bowling got serious, but I started wishing for more moments when I could just let go, and just root for everyone.
Bowling is so often a serious endeavor, it was nice just to have fun for the evening. And hopefully next summer, I can rejoin them, I need to compete at a serious level, but a little levity can be a good thing.