Monday, March 12, 2012

COLUMN: Bowling

Look out, "Ace of Cakes." There's a new team on the block.  Linn's lovingly handcrafted birthday cake.

Sometimes I get so caught up in the full-throttle, heavy metal, hustle-bustle, high society life of contemporary humor column-ing that I forget about my real passion in life:


And frankly, it's unfair to all of you. I know what a treat it is to witness my well-toned body as I publicly athleticize to and fro throughout the Quad Cities. For some time now, I've been denying you all this chance to observe my skilled form and athletic prowess.

Well, NO MORE, I said to myself last weekend. It was time to give back to the community. It was time to inspire the masses with my God-given agility, grace, and style. That's why I found myself walking into Milan Lanes on Saturday night.

Actually, it was because of my friend Linn's birthday, but I digress. The point is, I am an expert at the complex sport of bowling. I know this because I have bowled an incredible FIVE times in my life. That's five times more than I've ever played lacrosse... or rugby... or Australian Rules Football (which might actually also be rugby for all I know.) Truth be told, outside of the horror of grade school P.E. classes, I'm pretty sure it's the only sport I've ever played of my own volition -- at least, until the I.O.C. eventually gives in to my demands and recognizes Guitar Hero as an Olympic sport.

Until then, I shall settle for bowling -- a sport I last attempted in methinks 1992. But it was Linn's birthday party, and for some ungodly reason she wanted to spend it amidst the sounds of rolling balls, crashing pins, classic rock, and, well, whatever the mass consumption of adult beverages by a giant room full of strangers sounds like.

Me, I was concerned. The potential for Shane-centric embarassment at any event focused around the holding and throwing of heavy objects is usually rather high. And among the attendees of said birthday party? Not one, but TWO of my ex-es. That's all it took for me to have visions of getting my fingers stuck in a bowling ball and accidentally throwing myself halfway down Lane #3 while a wide cast of friends, formers, and strangers point and laugh with glee. Not good, Brown.

Step one, I supposed, was procuring a ball. It turns out that, when waltzing into a bowling alley so late on a Saturday night that it's technically Sunday morning, ball selection is NOT what you would call top-notch. I walked over to the much-picked-over shelf o' balls and checked out my few remaining options. I picked up the first one I saw... and it nearly pulled my arm clean out of the socket. Too heavy. I needed something a little more... helium-based, perhaps.

The next ball was just as heavy and impossible to lift, BUT then I noticed an alarming fact: it was pink... and had finger holes half the size of mine. I was holding (barely) a GIRL'S ball, and it still felt like it was about to sever my arm at the shoulder. I'm starting to
think that there are people designed to hold large heavy objects, and there are people designed to sit in chairs and clap for the other people. I think I know what camp I belong in.

Thankfully, though, there are also people like my friend Mark -- but I'm about to call him a fellow wuss, so maybe I should give him a fake name. Okay -- I meant to say my friend "Marque." I like Marque, if for no other reason than he's a fellow wuss. Case in point: Both of us were recently invited to a mutual friend's bachelor party. Both of us eagerly accepted the invitation and thought it'd be great fun -- until we discovered that the plan involved an afternoon of paintball. Within minutes, both of us had invented excuses to cancel. Until Nintendo comes out with Wii Paintball, I'm good with having missed the paintball craze, thanks.

Marque and I are kindred spirits in our wussiness. That's why it surprised the heck out of me to see him putting on his own bowling glove while pulling his very own bowling ball out of his very own fancy bowling bag.

"Dude," I said, "you own your own ball?"

"Sure," he replied. "Wanna try it?"

I picked it up, ready to once again feel tendons crying out in pain. Instead, I gasped. It was lightweight. It was manuverable. I'm not capable of much in this world, but I was pretty sure I could point this thing in the right direction and send it down a lane. This was my perfect bowling ball. Thankfully, Marque allowed me to share.

I've always heard that one of the best ways to handle a high-stress task is to close your eyes and visualize the process before you proceed. Sure enough, if I closed my eyes, I could picture that ball rolling down the lane to a 10-pin strike and the cheers of beautiful women everywhere. Just one problem. What I couldn't visualize was what on Earth I did to make that ball roll straight. I had no idea what my body was supposed to do, so I just winged it. I took a few steps, cocked back the ball, and shot it down the lane. 7 pins -- not bad, and I picked up the spare on the 2nd shot.

I did notice, though, that bowling balls are generally supposed to ROLL down the lane, right? Mine more skidded than rolled. Somehow I was putting backspin on the ball so that it was simply glancing its way toward the pins. Something tells me this was not PBA form. Frankly, as long as I wasn't falling on my butt and people weren't openly pointing and laughing, I didn't care. And I especially didn't care when Amy -- formerly of Shane + Amy and a fellow guest at the party -- got up to bowl. She, too, had an interesting bowling form, which involved more of an underhanded throw of the ball resulting in a WHAM as the ball fell to the lane and somehow made its way to the pins. Hey, whatever works.

At the end of the day, I had fun, even if: (a) my ex-girlfriend ended up beating me, (b) I was stuck wearing bowling shoes so small that I now know why the chick from "Black Swan" went psycho, and (c) despite using equipment so lightweight you could theoretically play dodgeball with it, I still find myself coating my shoulder liberally in Biofreeze some 3 days later.

I guess that's the price you pay when you're an athlete like me.

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