Oh, balls

It takes all kinds at Bowling Green in Cicero, N.Y.

Lanes 11 and 12, Thursday Night Men's League, my team  vs. a squad with a lot of balls.

Lanes 11 and 12, Thursday Night Men’s League, my team vs. a squad with a lot of balls.

I came prepared to capture the colorful spectrum of bowling balls that roll these days at my Thursday night league just to the north of Syracuse.

Our competition looks rather imposing.

Our competition looks rather imposing during the warm-up.

The other squad was dressed in matching team shirts, and not T’s, either. Our CiCi Pizza T-shirts, received at the start of the season three years ago, have all seemed to have been lost in the laundry. I still have mine, but since Steve, Randy, Tiny and Tom have stopped wearing theirs, I go free-style on T-shirt choices weekly, too.

Five guys to a squad would mean a manageable 10 balls per lane in a sensible world. But many bowlers bring a strike ball and a spare ball — a bowling ball made out of different composition they can throw faster and straighter. That can make for a crowded situation. One opponent Thursday night had four or five balls. I couldn’t tell. His teammate squawked when more than one bowler left their second ball on the main rack, causing a first shot rolled to get perilously close to becoming jammed inside the ball return. No fingers were lost. Whew.

Lanes 9-10

Lanes 9-10.

Lanes 7-8.

Lanes 7-8.

Lanes 5-6.

Lanes 5-6.

Lanes 3-4

Lanes 3-4.

Lanes 1-2.

Lanes 1-2.

My brand new iPhone 6 allowed me to snap the center island of the other five sets of lanes with some stealth while regular play was going on, with a minimum of raised eyebrows.

New balls are available behind the main counter.

New balls are available behind the main counter.

Of course, no bowling center, no matter how small — and 12 lanes is not large — would be complete without offering a selection of new balls for bowlers frustrated with their balls. There must be a machine to drill the finger holes hanging out somewhere on the premises. I don’t know. I bought my ball from and had it drilled by a great guy named Vern who runs a shop out of his garage 15 miles to the north, in Central Square. Vern used to follow the Professional Bowlers Association from city to city and drill balls for the best in the game, and he also invented developments for bowling balls adopted by major companies. He had his own line of bowling balls for a while. His prices can’t be beat. Everybody on my team has bought their balls from Vern except Tiny.

Free balls!

Free balls!

When leagues are not rolling, bowling centers make their bread by charging per game. Open bowling, it’s called, and it costs a pretty dollar these days. Beginners don’t often have their own balls, so alleys have racks of house balls available. Open bowling is marked by beginners walking up and down the racks hoisting balls to find one of proper weight, eight to 16 points, and sticking their fingers in the holes to find the best fit.

When I was a kid bowling in a youth league every Saturday morning, I’d take my favorite house ball and stick it in on the most out-of-the way rack in the bottom row, furthest from the center, and hope I’d find it there the next week. That ploy would work most of the time.

Not saddle, but ...

Not saddle, but …

Still not saddle, but ...

Still not saddle, but …

My last bowling league post, my blogging friend Kerbey of I Don’t Get It noted my lack of traditional bowling shoes. I told her that, yes, indeed, the old-school bowling shoe look is pretty grand, but I just don’t find the about the style in my Syracuse area. I looked again Thursday to make sure.

For those interested, we won two of three games, five of seven points. I rolled a bit below my average of 159. But this is the second of our two bowl-on-Sunday-morning weeks to make up for Thursday holidays, so hopefully I’ll rise above as you’re reading this.

Is there anything else you’d like to know about bowling balls? Would you go for a solid-color bowling shoe or the saddle-shoe look, and why? What’s your favorite team sport to play as an adult, why, and do you wear a uniform?

Fish of Gold

32 thoughts on “Oh, balls

  1. I LOVE this post! I love bowling shows so much that I have two pairs of Sketchers that LOOK like bowling shoes, even though they’re not! And I love how you were sneaky in hiding your ball until the following week! That sounds like something I would do. πŸ™‚


  2. I am in love with the fact that y’all freestyle in your own fashions, Chum. The balls are attrative and stunning to look at…could they be more shiny? I also am a fan of putting your ball in stealth mode over the weekdays…back in the day. Brilliant. If I chose my ball it would be purple and with squiggly lines…maybe poka dots.


  3. I see by your other post you have 12 teams, all presumably with 5 bowlers. That’s pretty impressive! The Friday night men’s league that bowls to our right has 6 teams of 5, and started the year off with only 5 teams! We have 8 teams of 4 (actually, 7 and a half teams since one team only has two) in our mixed league…

    You do have the good luck of getting hit with all three holidays this year, don’t you? Well, what else to do on a Sunday morning but shoot a few competitive games…

    Oh, and I also had a favorite house ball at one point in my youth league. It was apparently a lost ball nobody claimed, and since it didn’t have the alley’s name on it, I got brave one week and just took it home with me. I used that ball for about 3 years!


  4. what a fun post πŸ™‚ Hard to say with a straight face, but those are pretty balls–so colorful. I’m one of those beginners that just hopes the ball I’m picking from the free rack is a good one for me. If my fingers fit in the holes and it’s not too heavy and not too light, I figure I’m good. (I also suck at bowling, btw.) Am sure you’d cringe if you saw me pick a ball or toss it down a lane. Bowling reminds me of gym class and it was something fun to do with the kiddos when they were younger.

    Have never been much of a team sport player (though would like to think I’m a decent team player in the general sense, haha). My sport in high school was cross-country, but an abbreviated season as I developed anemia part-way through (from running too much!). But am proud to say that to this day I rarely miss a work-out. Gotta burn the calories if I’m going to eat and drink with near-abandon πŸ˜‰


    • Bowling is a great social sport, Liz. Get your kids into it now because it is a great equalizer. Everybody can have fun with it, you know? I mean, it’s bowling. Good for both genders, all economic strata, all ethnicities.

      I think you would be a great team player in all senses, running ’til you dropped with anemia. That’s dogged determination right there.

      And working out so you can eat and drink with near abandon is pretty damn sporty, too. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Old balls, new balls … take your pick. I definitely enjoy the soccer ball (Lanes 3-4), and that would probably be my roller of choice. Nothing beats bowling; there is a lot for me to work on still, but it’s just such a great outing with friends. No worries about rolling under average this week. You’re just shaking off some extra dust.


  6. i know nothing about them, other than being one of those open bowlers who pick up a random ball and try to bowl with it. what colorful shots these are mark, they look like closeups of marbles. i had no idea a bowling team was called a squad either, i’m learning all the time from you. congrats on the 2 out of 3 )


    • My friend, Melvin, mentioned he was going to New England when I first met him at work five years ago, from time to time I write about him and how his ‘humor saves me.’ He will bring out a New England term and ask me about it, since he had foreign parents from an island, but he was raised in Massachusetts. He thought he would ‘stump’ me with the candlepins comment, but I knew exactly what they were and he was surprised. My 16th summer I spent in Rockport, where my two Great Aunts and second cousins lived. Anyway, we went to a place you could choose the style of pins and I tried this kind of bowling. I was fairly good at it, but feel the narrower pins are harder to knock over. Just a comment on your response, Barb! Smiles!


    • I have seen the slim candlepins, Barbara. But I have bowled the short and squat duckpins in Maryland, and that is so hard they give you three shots in a frame. Two for a spare, still, third shot to knock down some more wood. The ball fits in your palm, no holes in it, sort of like a bocce ball. Interesting game.


  7. ha! Well written Mark and very informative. I too was not aware that new bowling shoes were so fancy or that some people bowled with more than one ball. So cool. it is a fun game and I haven’t bowled for a long while – I’m not very good (except after 2 1/2 beers). Best of luck my friend.


  8. I will not sink to the “depths of punnage and metaphor” that your previous comment makers have so blatantly exploited. I will strike out their comments and try a different frame of thought.
    I will spare no effort nor dwell in the pun gutter. I shall wax philosophical and try a more meaningful approach.
    I’ll do that later…
    I gotta split.


  9. Striking post, Mark! It was right up my alley! You are quite the kingpin! …sorry, I just love a pun…I couldn’t help but join in! I’m sorry if you feel…I crossed the line. *Tumbleweed trundles on by*


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