Don’t worry, ball yankers are just a part of bowling

imageAfter seven 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!

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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

60 thoughts on “Don’t worry, ball yankers are just a part of bowling”

  1. I have to slow down while reading your blog. Upon first read, I thought you wrote “Whore house balls are stored”. That would explain the money you had to pay the school for your son to bowl on the team.

  2. OMG this is SO funny! I can totally relate – though my bowler is actually my husband. He’s pretty serious too. He’s been to nationals. Right now, he’s settled for “locals” (haha) and in May we’re going to States. Again. I go because I love him. And because there’s alcohol.

  3. Haha! Reminds me of the good times we had in my grade school bowling alley (yes, my grade school had one) before automatic pinsetters, and a tickler was when the pin boy was sent sprawling across the adjacent lane. I suspect it was funded by orthopedists.

  4. I am on a crowded airplane reading this story, and I can’t quit laughing. My eyes are watering and my stomach hurts. OMG…priceless! I have never been to a high school bowling tournament and now, should it ever happen, I feel very prepared.
    Any chance you’ve watched King Pin (?) with Woody Harelson and Bill Murray? I’m a huge fan of the balls.

    1. Yikes! I’m sure you’re under the watchful eye of an air marshal at this point. Don’t make any sudden moves, even if it’s for one of those cute little bottles of liquor! I actually have “King Pin” and “The Big Lebowski” on my must-see list now 😉

  5. My mom and dad were both on bowling teams and sometimes even won trophies. As a child, I loved going to the alley with them – the crashing of the pins, the enthusiastic shouting of the players (who often forgot a young child was present, shame on them), all those quarters for the game arcade (presumably so young children wouldn’t witness or hear any untoward adult behavior). Plus, sodas, fries, hot dogs! I could have spent all day there!

    Fortunately, however, none of my kids took up bowling. The soccer and lacrosse games were enough – at least they were outside so I could escape to my car and still watch (or not – one mom used to take her DVD player and watch movies).

    1. I know the feeling. I’m getting ready for baseball season here, which means I’ll be freezing my butt of in the bleachers two or three afternoons a week watching my youngest son. Spring baseball in Oregon is like watching ice hockey in your shorts.

        1. Lol! Don’t let that scare you away. Summer baseball is still warm. But spring baseball… a different story. There’s always wrestling..! 😉 However, if you like the outdoors (hiking, swimming, not getting mugged) it’s a great place to raise kids.

          1. Hahha. Oh, no, we heard about that wrestling thing from our nephew in AZ. You have to be the best in your “weight” or you don’t get to compete? And it’s all day, as well. Just like swimming (kids have been on summer team, as well) – mannnnn waiting for your heats. Ugh. There all day. It’s much easier to remain in soccer. 2 hours tops. (hour before game, hour game) done! 3 hours for baseball.

  6. This is a 300, good buddy. Kim & I have to be cautious about leaving the TV on while we’re getting ready to go out. If Big Lebowski comes on we’re toast — regrets will be conveyed if possible.

    1. I’ve never understood that either. Must be because it doesn’t elicit yelling and screaming like other sports…? Anything to keep the dining room under control.

  7. My single parent (mom) used to be on a bowling league for most of my youth so I spent many hours each week hanging out at West Covina Bowl. In the 70’s / early 80’s, smoking was allowed…so it was smoky, and sometimes I had to run to the vending machine to buy my mom some more Marb. 100 lights. Then, I got Shirley temples or a lot of soda. The sounds, the smell of bowling wax, powder smacked on hands and bottoms of shoes to get rid of stickiness… mini lead pencils for scoring and the high 5s and 10s.

    Ugh. To this day, I can’t stand bowling with my mom, because there is ALWAYS a high five every time she bowls, every time I bowl. Good try, bad luck, awesome… I’m like can we just high 5 once and call it good? She didn’t appreciate that much.

    1. I hear you! Same for me growing up. My mom and grandmother both bowled for years in Long Beach and brought me along every Sunday. Not many high-fives in the youth league. Needed to keep both hands on your wallet.

  8. You’re redefining parenting for a the modern age, buddy.
    Well done.

    “Hey, is that Joey Fantone?” – a colleague who quickly glanced at the screen.
    (Thought you’d find that interesting, Ned.)

  9. That was a ballsy story Ned. I depend on your blog for my information on cutting edge life activities. I see that Oregon is once more leading in recreational pursuits – has anyone yet tried combining your newly legalized smoke with bowling? It would reduce the stress and make the time pass quickly (or if it passed slowly you would e – n – j – o – y every minute). The snack bar operators would also get a great boost in business and hence it would be good for the economy, adding snack bar jobs and vendor delivery jobs.

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