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The politics of bowling


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Arizona Daily Wildcat

Phil Villarreal

By Phil Villarreal
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
November 30, 1999
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Every Thursday night at 10, I hop in the car and drive out to a place where I know I'm going to get roughed up by five of my friends. I meet them in a place that can best be described as Tucson's ghetto, in an alley surrounded by trailer parks, prostitutes and cheap motels.

This sounds like a fight club, but believe me - what goes on here is far more vicious.

It's bowling.

At first glance, bowling seems like a very nonviolent, even noncompetitive sport. It appears to be just a bunch of overweight boozers rolling 16-pound balls at a bunch of pins.

In this case, the first glance is accurate.

But for me and the five other guys that hit Golden Pin Lanes every Thursday night, bowling is more like a Celebrity Death Match, without the celebrities and without the death.

We're vicious when we bowl.

You'd be amazed at the things that go down during a round of bowling. Everyone in my group takes it seriously, and it shows. Hot dogs are thrown. Beer is spilled (and spit in). And the trash-talking flows, as Jim Carrey's character in "Dumb and Dumber" would say, "like the salmon of Capistrano."

Bowling is the epitome of equal-opportunity sports. No matter how fat or frail, tall or short you may be, you can bowl.

This is probably the reason that we do it - because it's so neutral. The bowling alley provides a level playing field, and only the one with the most savvy and self-control will come out on top. My 6-foot-7 friend Jackson can take us all to the hole in basketball. Bird is a tennis stud, and no one dares to take me on in Tecmo Bowl.

And then there's Bonker, the one that everybody hates most of all. Bonker is an unrefined freshman with a gift for knocking down pins. He says he's bowled six perfect 300 games, but we're not sure about that. When we first met him, he said he was going to college on a golf scholarship, then weeks later admitted that the most prestigious course he'd ever played is at Golf 'N Stuff.

But the kid can bowl! He's the only one among us with any actual bowling skill. He almost always wins.

Bonker has a weak spot, though. He's easily rattled. To get Bonker off-center, all you need to do is make up a fictional story about his grandmother or girlfriend. That or tell him he looks like Corky from "Life Goes On." Do this right, and Bonker will become beatable.

This has helped me beat Bonker three times.

If you were to average the scores of the six of us that go bowling every week, I would probably rank fourth or fifth. So every time I find a way to beat Bonker, it causes a massive laugh riot.

It's those rare times that make Thursday nights worthwhile.

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