Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Lessons Learned Bowling

With more than 100 million bowlers in some 90 countries -- 2.6 million of those in the United States alone -- bowling is certainly one of the world's most popular sports. Tracing its long history down through the centuries, the earliest form of bowling balls and pins found thus far come from an ancient Egyptian boy's tomb. Today's bowling interest can be traced back to the movie Grease 2. This 1982 film was responsible for a new generation of youth bowlers, which has fueled the increase of bowlers since then. Another more recent boost for the sport came when Wii introduced a modern version of virtual bowling in its gaming system. Wii bowling is enjoyed by game players aged 2 through 92; it even inspires players to try their hand at the real deal.

I rolled my first strike when I was eight years old when my class went on a field trip to the local bowling alley. It was in the fifth frame, and I've been hooked on the game ever since. I started league play when I was in sixth grade, joining a father-son league with my dad. I graduated to a mixed couple's league in high school, on to a men's team in college and, finally, a Friday night league with the guys. Over the years I have learned some valuable life lessons at the bowling alley:

1. Boundaries count. Stepping over the foul line will activate a buzzer and announce to the world that one committed a foul. There is no "wiggle room" here. Once the boundary is crossed, the penalty is assessed. Too often in life we try to wiggle out of the consequences of crossing the boundary and breaking the rules.

2. It is about the team. No matter how good or bad I scored, it took a team to win the championship. Each one of the championship teams I was a member of had one thing in common: it was a team win. Over the span of the season, each member took his or her turn leading the way. Too often the emphasis is placed on the individual, not the team.

3. It is not how hard you throw the ball, but how accurate you are. I've watched bowlers hurl a lightweight ball down the alley as hard as they could, only to erratically hit the pins or dump it in the gutter. I've also watched kids push the ball down the lane with two hands and get a strike. It is all about how accurately the ball hits the pins. Too often in life, problems are approached with a heavy hand, when a light and precise touch is what is needed.

4. Shoes have to slide. If a bowling shoe sticks and doesn't slide on the approach, the bowler risks serious injury. In life too sometimes we need to slide and not worry about the steps.

5. It is my privilege to be the dad of a man who has bowled a perfect game. That's 12 strikes in a row, and it ain't easy. I am proud of his accomplishment, for it takes concentration, skill and patience to bowl a perfect game. I am also proud of him as he demonstrates the same qualities of concentration, skill and patience as he leads his family and raises his son.

Who would have thought all those hours spent in the alley would have paid off?

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