years weeks of attending our oldest son’s high school bowling tournaments, I’m passing along a few tips to parents who may find themselves in a similar situation. And by ‘”situation” I mean contemplating suffocating themselves with an empty bowling bag after listening to 24 lanes of crashing pins for five hours. Especially if, for personal reasons, you aren’t comfortable spending those hours drinking in front your child’s high school teammates.
First, invest in a tall folding chair. The taller the better. In fact, consider purchasing a portable lifeguard stand if possible. That’s because getting a prime seat to watch your child bowl depends on how willing you are to take the life of a complete stranger. Getting a good location is similar to the Oklahoma Land Rush. Once the doors open, parents stampede (some on actual horseback) to the most valuable territory: the mid-point between 1) the center of the bowling lanes, 2) the bar and 3) the restrooms.
Parents then frantically stake their claim by jamming giant folding chairs together until the result is something similar to how homes are wedged together in poor sections of Hong Kong. Should something unexpected cause a panic, such as an earthquake or 300-game, it’s doubtful anyone will survive a catastrophic folding-chair collapse. For this reason, I suggest avoiding the mayhem by investing in that portable lifeguard stand. Sure, it may draw some stares and grumbling. Especially as you arrive moments before the tournament and climb to your seat well above those who clamored for prime territory when the doors opened at 6:30 a.m. There may even be a few threats about speaking to the management. But as they’ll discover, the only rule about spectator chairs is that they be moveable.
So as they say in bowling: They can go wax their balls.
Which brings us to bowling terminology. As a parent, knowing the lingo can mean the difference between celebrating your child’s accomplishments or wondering if you’re raising a sexual deviant. For example, if my son told me he blew a rack but then rocked the bedposts and went all the way during a five-bagger, I would first establish all of this occurred while bowling. If so, then I know he missed a strike but then picked up a 7-10 split and finished his game with five consecutive strikes.
If he was golfing at the time, he’ll need to explain what he was doing with Tiger Woods.
There are actually a lot of completely innocuous bowling terms that can bring the dining room of your favorite restaurant to a grinding halt:
Big release: Bringing the ball up exceptionally high before letting it go. (This can be painful if you aren’t expecting it.)
Ball rack: Where house balls are stored. (I’m pretty sure Hillary Clinton has one of these.)
Tickler: When the 6-pin gently topples the 10-pin. (In France, this is known as a “French Tickler.”)
Yank shot: Holding onto your ball too long. (It happens.)
Bender: When a ball hooks wide before curving in. (What you’ll want to go on after five hours in a bowling alley.)
Next, keep in mind that bowling tournaments are played “baker” style, meaning that your child will only bowl two out of every 10 frames — or 36 times over the course of 160 frames. Or approximately one hour of actually bowling during a five-hour tournament. That leaves four hours to fill, which you can do by:
1) Having drinks delivered to your lifeguard stand
2) Calculating equations to determine how much your child actually bowls during tournaments
3) Watching every bowler’s special “strike pose.”
If you’re not familiar with the strike pose, it’s the signature move bowlers give after getting a strike. Think of it as a subtle gesture to let other bowlers know you are on… your… GAME! For example, pulling an imaginary pistol from your holster and “shooting down” the pins (The Gun Slinger) or dropping to your knees and pretending to tie the legs of a calf before throwing your hands in the air (The Calf Roper). I counted 25 variations, including The Maestro, The Thor’s Hammer Slam, The Grenade Toss and The John Cena — when a bowler waves his hand in front of his face while yelling “YOU CAN’T SEE ME!” at the fallen pins.
The truth is, you can’t un-see something like that.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I don’t like bowling. In an age when kids spend more time Tweeting and SnapChatting than having actual conversations, anything that encourages them to get out and socialize for several hours without an electronic device is a great thing — and bowling is an activity that is as much about socializing as it is about being competitive.
However, for the uninitiated parents of a teen bowler, it’s good to know what you’re getting into. Especially when your child tells you they want to be a smooth stroker…
Ned is a syndicated humor columnist for News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, available from Port Hole Publishing, Amazon Books, Barnes and Noble or the trunk of Ned’s car!