Trivia time, everybody!
(Wait, where are you going?)
Okay, for those of you still with me, which popular leisure sport has its roots as a German ritual used to cleanse people from sin?
Nope, you’re wrong. It’s bowling.
The dirty sinner rolled a rock into a club, or kegel, which represented the heathen. Knock down the stick, and be ye healed. Job done. Easy und peasy.
The game was known as Kegel in Germany, and thankfully evolved into bowling over here in North America. Meanwhile the name kegel was applied to something else entirely, and since this is a G rated column I’ll leave that one untouched.
Actually, there are two distinct versions of the modern game. Lawn bowling, or bowls in the U.K., is played on meticulously manicured lawns, by very upright, properly mannered folk, resplendent in their best whites, don`t you know. It`s played by chaps named Reginald and Bertram, Vivian and Janet. No word if tea and cucumber sandwiches are compulsory, but we can assume.
The North American game is altogether less, let`s say, aristocratic. It`s played indoors, on shiny wooden alleys, by hard working folk, dressed in cool open-necked two-tone shirts, occasionally with their names embroidered and displayed proudly. Bowling heroes were named Dick, Buzz, and Earl; Liz, Kelly and Danielle. Tea and cukes don’t fly. An ice cold Blue and some fries with ketchup will suffice, however.
For the sake of regional relevance, we’ll focus on the indoor game, and what it offers the Modern Sporting Saultite in terms of accessibility, ease of play, exercise levels, value for money, and of course fun.
Despite the fact that the number of local bowling alleys has been lopped by half in recent years, there is still a bumpin’ 10-pin alley ready to serve you here in the Sault, as well as one located across the crick in Soomerica. We don't do 5-pin in these parts. One might make a joke about it being due to the size of the balls involved, but one wouldn't do that here, because G rated.
There are plenty of lanes, a fully stocked snack bar, and a licensed lounge if you have the urge to tipple. Use your discretion however, as drinking and bowling can lead to occasional hilarity, potential injury, and withering stares from your neighbour in lane 6. Be sure to call ahead if you want to play, as league nights get pretty packed. Speaking of leagues, they are available for all level of player, and nearly all age groups.
If you bring your wee ones, you can even make use of gutter bumpers, that keep the ball in play so they don't get discouraged with the inevitable gutter ball or twelve. Try to avoid using them past the age of, say, 30 though. Bad form, and again, withering stares...
In terms of exercise, hey, you're off your duff and moving around so there's that. There is also the fact that you're heaving a 10-20 pound ball down a lane twenty or so times a game. Not to mention the occasional sprint up and down the alley hunting for high-fives after your first turkey (3 consecutive strikes...so they tell me). You can also spot the regular bowler by the phenomenon of One Hulk Arm, because unless you're ambidextrous, your one throwing arm will see a lot more action than the other. Engage these folks in arm wrestling wagers at your peril.
As for costs, they're incredibly reasonable. Lane rentals are cheap, especially if you go with friends and defer the costs among them. There is no requirement to have your own balls and shoes, as they are available for use and rental respectively.
Should you take a liking to the game and wish to pick up your own kit, there is a pro shop that features custom balls, gloves, and especially shoes, should you have difficulty with the whole "HOW MANY people have worn these before me?!" idea. Bowling shoes can also be worn on a night out dancing, too. Trust me, they're that cool.
That leaves us with fun. Which it is. It is truly an egalitarian pastime. People with little to no bowling ability can line up next to people who can Bend it Like, um, Earl Anthony and have just as much fun. There aren't too many thrills out there that match the feeling of throwing a strike. Just try not to fist pump, shout, or flash a goofy grin after sending those ten pesky pins into the hereafter. Hey, they've been standing there all night, mocking you, judging every gutter ball you throw. They deserve it. Celebrate.
That's the essence of bowling; uncomplicated, reasonably priced excitement. It's also, if taken seriously, a high level display of skill and competition. Everyone can play, and everyone should. It's hard finding that kind of entertainment value nowadays.
If you haven't yet given it a roll, you have Game On's seal of approval to do so.
Just don't call it Kegeling.