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Mike Redmond Column

Please refer to the Mike Redmond Column main page for columns published in other issues.
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 Duck Pin Bowling Keeps Inflated Egos in Check

The next time your self-important Self needs to be taken down a notch or two - assuming, of course, that your Self isn't so self-important as to have lost all sense of self-awareness - I have a recommendation:

Go duckpin bowling.

No, I am not kidding.

Get yourself to the Fountain Square Theater Building in Indianapolis (also known as the Far Western Outpost of Duckpin Bowling).Head for either the 1950s-style Atomic Bowl lanes in the basement or the 1930s-style Action Bowl lanes on the top floor. Rent a pair of those snazzy red-and-blue shoes with the numbers on the back. Find your lane. Pick up the dinky 3-pound duckpin bowling ball. Peer down the lane at the squat little pins. Laugh to yourself about how easy this is going to be, rolling this little ball down there to knock down all those fat pins. Roll the ball. Watch as it heads down the lane and …

Be humiliated.

Based on my personal, up-close observation of newbie duckpin bowlers, the chances of someone rolling a duckpin ball for the very first time and achieving anything resembling success are … oh, nil.

Likely as not, the ball will end up in the gutter. Wait. That's not entirely accurate. I meant to say, "Likely as not, the ball will end up in the gutter after bouncing down the lane, with a series of embarrassing thumps that will cause every head to turn your direction, just in time to see the ball go wobbling out of sight without touching a single pin."

Or you might knock down one or two, but that will be about it. For the day, I mean.

It's a deceptively tough game, in other words.

Duckpins originated in Baltimore around the turn of the last century when a couple of guys got together at a bowling alley with some cut-down bowling pins and said, "Hey, let's invent a deceptively tough game." They called it duckpins, supposedly after the way the pins flew when struck. Or maybe it was the pin-setters, all young boys, flying out of the way when the balls came lobbing in toward their foreheads: "Duck! Pins!"

Marylanders took to the game like … well, like ducks to water. Before long the game had spread along the Eastern Seaboard. Then it came to Indianapolis and began leveling the karma of Hoosiers who thought their hot-stuff tenpins averages would be of some use in a duckpin game, to which seasoned duckpin bowlers say, and I quote, "Ha." If you can break 100 in duckpins, you're doing great. And forget about bowling 300. It's never been done in an officially sanctioned game.

In duckpins, you get three balls to a frame. At first, this seems like an advantage. Three balls? Woo hoo. More chances to score. Right. You go ahead and think that, right up to the moment you roll your third straight gutter ball.

But keep trying. Eventually, you'll find a groove and you may post a score as high as 26. At which time you will have learned to take pleasure in small achievements. And maybe you will have gotten over yourself a little in the bargain.

So there you have it - my take on the psychological importance of duckpin bowling. And since I'm feeling pretty pleased with myself for writing it, I suppose I had better get down to the lanes and gutterball myself a little humility.




© 2007 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.