By Greg Price
It was a trip down memory lane last Thursday and quite fittingly, it was a bowling lane that was the backdrop.
A couple of co-workers here at the Taber Times participate in the Thursday night bowling league here at the Taber Bowling Centre, but one was unable to attend because of family duties and so I agreed to be a fill-in.
The agreement came with some nervousness as I wondered if I would be as good as my younger days when we had a Taber Times team years back.
Despite having very little experience in five-pin bowling at that time, I was still periodically able to do my patented turkey dance (three strikes in a row) on rare occasions and get marks on frames with semi-regularity. Enough marks that I, at times, was able to get my name in the coveted top three for triple scores among men in the league.
The nervousness also came from how my laid back (OK maybe too laid back) demeanour is when it comes to bowling and I was afraid of how that would be perceived by teammates Barb, Hugo and Nora, who I was unfamiliar with.
I do not take my bowling like there are scouts in the stands looking for the next big thing to give them their big break on the pro tour. If the rye is tasting fine, the ball is striking more pins than they are keeping up and I can share a few laughs with my teammates, it’s a good night.
It hearkened back to days of my Hauk-a-Loogies bowling team I formed for Monday night revelry in Lethbridge with old high school chums. There was no middle ground. You either loved or hated bowling with our team that particular night.
Drinking games, high fives, special dances, side bets and jokes galore were the name of the game for the truly mediocre Hauk-a-Loogies bowling team when it came to overall pin count at the end. No, we did not need those bumpers you put up in the gutters for pre-schoolers, but for your average weekly bowler, we were in the bottom half as a team.
But that wasn’t the point, it was more to catch up with friends I hadn’t seen with regularity in years, and maybe make some new friends along the way.
It was a view of that Monday night league that a couple of the teams did not like that were met with a gruff ‘hurry up and bowl’ or exaggerated eye rolls as I slapped my butt and galloped across the lane after converting a difficult spare or getting multiple strikes.
That is why at first I minded my Ps and Qs when I arrived at the Taber Bowling Centre last Thursday. I like to gauge the crowd to see if they can take my off-beat sense of humour.
I laced my shoes up already thinking of excuses if I bowled poorly and let my team down. My shoes were too tight, the lanes were over oiled, the moon’s gravitational pull was off. Yeah, that last one sounded plausible.
Much like slo-pitch was to my former baseball playing days, five-pin bowling is worlds apart form its 10-pin big brother.
There are fine nuances to the game, like which funky-coloured ball you should choose, how hard you should hurl the ball down the lane to prove your masculinity and if you should choose between rye and rum for your drink of choice that day.
All kidding aside, five pin is not as easy as it looks to your regular 10-pin bowler. There is a more finite feel to handling the smaller five-pin bowling ball, where I can see one having a harder time to keep consistency from your arm or wrist flailing out because of the lighter weight. Even a less than favourably-thrown ball in 10-pin bowling can have you bailed out by the number of pins that can bounce around and knock down extra pins. There is no such luxury to bail you out in five-pin bowling. If you throw it right down the middle in five-pin, you are likely not getting your spare.
The group I was bowling with was welcoming enough to make me feel at ease, although I still kept it on the down low for the most part as to not risk offending anyone. And I didn’t embarrass myself, holding my own with some of the top scores on the team. I took an Elmer Fudd approach to my game as I crouched down low and approached my delivery vawy, vawy quiet.
Of course my superstitions came through that when I hit a rough patch of frames. It must of been the ball’s fault so I switched up mid game for all three games.
In the end, my last game was my best game of the three and I was able to hold the fort down until the team’s regular teammate would return, without being chased out of the place with pitchforks.
It was a fun experience and I will wait in the wings until my name is called again for active duty. In the meantime, I shall practise my turkey dance, think of new inventive excuses for poor play and come up with some one-line zingers.