Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Team Abides

abide: To remain stable or fixed in some state or condition; to continue; to remain.

It's August 2010. You're facing a string of indefinite Sunday nights. You drive past the Lanes marquee: Fall Leagues Now Forming. New IronMan Pinball.

It all swirls in your mind: memories of bygone crashing pins and foamy beers. Keno at the bar in 1997. The fact that a friend sent you "Let's Go Bowling" as a "song of the day". Your amusement at The Big Lebowski. You decide to BOWL.

You find yourself calling to ask how to form a team. How many members do you need? How many subs can you have. (You know you won't be able...willing? bowl EVERY Sunday from now to May 2011). You poll all able-bodies associates. Who likes to bowl? Who maybe likes to bowl? Who doesn't give a shit about bowling but is willing to leave the known behind and enter League Land for 3 hours once a week? Far-reaching pleas are issued on Facebook and at casual coffee shop encounters to RECRUIT.

You find yourself with an unlikely cohort of filmmakers, homemakers, thinkers, drinkers, smokers, jokers, and midnight tokers willing to roll the big balls. 

You realize you have no idea what this all really means: voting in a league-wide ratification of rules you don't understand; a weeks long hunt for bowling shoes (maroon with green and gold accents and white rubber soles--DON'T WEAR ON THE STREET!); Internet searches for bowling techniques and ball-selection tips; familiarization with phrases such as "That lane bites" and "Pick that shit up"; a membership to the U.S. Bowling Congress (membership card now residing in wallet);  a bank account-draining, cash-only $21/week pony for the "pleasure ?" of barely breaking 100 and solidifying your spot as the team's "anchor woman"; an existential crisis around whether you should have committed to such a long, long season; a muscle strain that screams how pathetically weak you really are and puts you off the team for a relieving but at the same time frustrating 2 months; a compelling desire to show up on league night anyway and drink copious amounts of beer (warning sign, anyone?); STRATEGY.

Weeks go by, and you find yourself heckling your teammates into bowling better because you NEED to be in the top 2 teams in the league.'s $1500 championship money on the line, OK!!??!! Emails fly with thoughts on who should bowl, when, why, who should sub, why and why not. Team members find themselves psyching themselves up in the men's room between frames. You feign shock and laugh about it, but secretly you hope it fucking works to increase the score.

Oh my god, WTF?!? You find yourself wondering...Am I competitive? ABOUT BOWLING?!?

You can't believe it's true. This was just for fun! Forget the bowling. Let's Party. You issue an invitation to your house to just be with your bowling team and celebrate the League half-season with a potluck dinner and a nice chill evening.

You're ready: Bowling bevie naps. Third Rail lightning bolt cake. 

Friends arriving with booze and good cheer. You start playing records. A new team theme song is established. 

White Russians are flowing. You put on the Big Lebowski. Suddenly, you don't just love the IDENTIFY with it! Walter won't miss league night, even if there's a toe on the line. Jesus is resplendent in his purple pantsuit with matching socks and shoes (you WANT to be able to pull that off next Sunday).

The Dude is your hero.

You wake up the next morning with a hammer in your head and a pounding in your heart, and despite the nausea and the vertigo (or maybe because of it), you know: Yes, I am a League Bowler. 

Second half of the season starts Jan 2. Forget the top 2, there's only one winner. LET'S GO THIRD RAIL BOWLING CLUB!!!!!!!! WOOOOHOOOO!!!!!!!!


  1. Christmas has passed, as has New Year's, and my boys are back in Kansas, returning to Minnesota again in summertime. The snow is on the ground--and boy is it!--and more is falling tonight. Hard to believe that in 6 months the house will be filled with laughter and days spent outside, with fires in the firepit and watching the sun set somewhere near Rochester, and shooting off as many crazy fireworks whenever we what, whatever kind we want, because we aren't in the city. The only thing we REALLY have to worry about is the water balloon launcher that Aunt Flo gave my 7 year old. (There is a joke in Nebraska about visiting Aunt Flo in Red Cloud, but I won't go there....) Just ask her about that water balloon launcher.

    But thinking about winter transitioning into spring, into summer, I pause to wonder: how fucking long IS a bowling season? And who made it that long? Clearly the bowling season abides. And abides. And abides.

    Maybe the more pertinent question: what does one do when bowling season is over? I suspect when May arrives, the bonding that occurs over drinks, the glow of well-oiled lanes, racks and racks of large balls, and great food, the letdown will be more than palpable. It will be formidable. Yes, you are a League Bowler now. But when you wake up some Monday morning in May, what will you be? An ex-league bowler, pining for the fall, humming "September Song." Now is the time to focus. Focus not only on first place and $1500 in winnings so that you can order better beer next year, but on what steps need to be taken to prepare for summer, for the days when the family goes on hiatus?

    Therapy? It may be good to start a group session with a well-heeled therapist. Look what therapy did for Bill Murray in "What About Bob?" He found a family and wasn't nearly so neurotic by movie's end. And it could pay dividends in the short term, too.

    Discovering another "sport" to play together? Bocce ball? Shuffle board? Professional drinking games? Right now you drink for fun. Why not find a drinking league where you can compete for a $1500 kitty by summer's end for downing as many White Russians, Sierras, glasses of port. Last team standing and with own livers in place by August 31 wins!

    At least regular picnics. You'll have to have something to blog about, because I and your other fan will have to have SOMETHING to read after the shoes have been unlaced.

    If you don't find that outlet, I'm afraid you won't be slipping into your purple jumpsuits; you'll be flopping around like netted walleye in your purple straight jackets.

    You must must abide....

    Happy New Year!

  2. Phil, The holiday break has ratched up your commenting brilliance to new heights. Of course, there is only one other fan to compare your posts to....But anyway, I appreciate the well-considered guidance. I like the competitive drinking league. I'd imagine your sister's going to propose something deathly like white water rafting. Good to know there's a voice of reason in the family.

  3. Well, I always was the more reasoned and reasonable of the two of us. If my dear, dear sister disagrees, that only bolsters the evidence in my favor, demonstrating how unreasonable she is! :) I really don't think she would suggest white-water rafting; the landing would be too soft. Perhaps bull riding or Aculpoco cliff diving. Be wary if she lures you to some exotic paradise. The beauty and luxury will soon be offset by pound-of-flesh you go swimming with the sharks or try to recreate the last swim of Steve Irwin.

    Glad you enjoyed the post. I was tired. And thanks for the flattery--that you consider it guidance AND well-considered!

    Epiphany is soon upon Happy Epiphany!