By Dave Armstrong (3-7-10)
I occasionally write about my various athletic and sports exploits (it's that male chest-puffing / bragging / "ain't over the hill yet" thing that we love to do), but I think this is my greatest feat ever: especially considering that I am an old codger of 51 now with rheumatoid arthritis. In the past I've mentioned nailing ten free throws in a row (basketball, in 2004), and kicking a 30 yard field goal (football, in 2006).
I would also add to the list of sports heroics, beating my oversized (very good defender) then 14yo son in one-on-one full court basketball, a few years ago, hitting about .600 and .550 the last two years in a summer softball league (with lots of extra base hits), and outdoors feats such as climbing the Grand Canyon bottom to top -- about a 5000 foot differential -- in the dead heat of summer (July 1978), hiking 17 miles in one exhausting day at 9000 feet elevation in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado (1979), and scaling Mt. Washington in New Hampshire (a 4300 foot rise, to the summit at 6288 elevation), in 2007.
I've even done hang gliding (1998), which was the ultimate thrill for me, and whitewater rafting. I went skiing exactly one time (1975) and went down the biggest hill without even taking lessons. Also, through the years I've had a lot of fun with tennis, ping pong, volleyball (backward spikes are my specialty), air hockey, and even an occasional hot streak in pool. About the only sport I haven't tried is hockey (weird, seeing that I am a half-Canadian from Detroit).
But this one was very special because it was so unexpected and spectacular, seeing that my previous average was 121 (!). I've only been bowling regularly since January 20th of this year. My 13yo son and I go most Wednesday nights, since there is a deal of $1/game, at the Thunderbowl Lanes in Allen Park, Michigan: a famous spot with 90 lanes (2nd largest in the country), and host of the PBA World Series of Bowling in 2009. It's about two miles from our house. I've heard it said that metro Detroit is the bowling (and softball and rock and roll and gospel, etc.) capitol of the country.
I have not bowled regularly at any time of my life, excepting a stretch around 1972-1973 when I went several times (probably no more than ten total, if that) with my best friend. Other than that it has been very few games here and there, mostly with youth groups. That's it. So I have no long spread of years honing my bowling skills. In the old days, the highest I reached was 163.
Prior to tonight my son and I had bowled 19 games each, in five outings. My previous high scores were 152, 151, and 144, with all the rest 128 or lower, for a 121 average. My second game in this series was 144, with four strikes (two in a row, twice). That was my highest number of strikes in a game till tonight. I usually got one or two a game.
So tonight we headed out for our weekly excursion. I had my usual aches and pains from arthritis. I just put up with it. I ain't ready to be a couch potato yet. It's bad enough, exercise-wise, that I have to sit and type all day. My right knee and right elbow hurt a little bit. I pulled a little muscle in my back a few days ago. My left thigh was sore a few days ago too. I also had something in my right eye all day and put eye drops in, so that most of the night it was actually blurry. The glory of sports, of course, has a lot to do with overcoming personal (and physical) obstacles. They rarely stop me from doing what I want to do when it comes to sports.
My regular bowling ball was unavailable, too, so I had to pick out a new one that I had never used before. It wasn't too bad, but the thumb hole was slightly small, so that my thumb joint started hurting a lot. I put a bandage on it. The ball seemed a little heavier. It said "Professional" on it. I think that helped!
With all these handicaps, I managed somehow to hit five straight strikes at the beginning of the game. What a thrill! This broke my son's record of four strikes in a row in his high game of 155 (which was the third one he bowled in the series! And his average is 101). I had talked of possibly getting as high as 170 before we went tonight. I kept going, getting two more strikes and one or two spares, too. I was at 189 after the 9th frame, so that I had to get at least a spare to reach 200. But I got my 7th strike in the 10th, thus guaranteeing a 200+ score.
How many people bowl a game that is 87 points above their average? But my average is now 126 after tonight. Previous to this big game I bowled only 117 (one strike). After it, with very tired legs, I managed to bowl a 161 (with three strikes), for my second highest score ever (except for the one 37 or so years ago). We do three games every time out now. Two's not enough and four is too many.
Man! I haven't even learned yet to put a good spin on the ball, like I see everyone else doing in the league that also plays every Wednesday. So I did all this with basically straight-on throws, hitting the pins exactly right (between the middle one and the one next to it: usually on the right for me: for those unfamiliar with the game).
Every week when I get home, my left foot is partially numb and I can't move it normally up and down or several hours, and the instep is sore. I'll be sore in various places for the next two days. My hip bones will be a little out of joint. But hey, if I can have this much fun, it is well worth it. And it's great time spent with one of my three sons, too.
Y'all got any good bowling stories of your own?