Splits, spares and strikes: Bowling deserves spot in Olympics

During a recent Google search under “bowling,” I clicked on Images and found a photo captioned “Bowling in India – Wikipedia.”

OK, that intrigued me, so I had to look it up.

The article listed what it said was every center in India, and I thought it was rather sad you could easily list all 28 – most with four lanes – in a country with a billion people.

But what spurred me on was a link from the photo that showed a lot of other sites, most in foreign languages and some even using Arabic, Hebrew, Chinese and Cyrillic characters.

It reminded me about what I’ve learned over the years is the worldwide popularity of this sport – yes, you can make it a sport if you want or a game if that’s what you prefer. A strike for bowling’s versatility.

But it’s stuck in my craw for 25 years that bowling has never had a fair shake in the Olympics. Bowling was a demonstration sport a quarter century ago at the 1988 Summer Games, with 20 countries competing, according to another Wikipedia entry.

It didn’t get picked up in 1992 or since. What’s bothered me is that some sports with much more regional interest, like equestrian, are perennially in the Olympics.

I remember in 2008 and 2012 watching a little bit of the horses jumping on a steeplechase course with moats and all, but what struck me was that just about every horse and rider was from the U.S., Canada, Australia and three or four countries in Europe. Other sports are like that, too.

There are people competing at a high level in bowling all over Europe, South America, the Mideast and especially eastern Asia in countries like Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Malaysia.

And without an Olympics to spur interest.

The image from a bowling show that has stuck with me the most over the years was at a Far East tournament that somehow made it on TV and included Americans and the guy I remember who I believe was from Singapore.

What made it stand out was his style, what’s called the helicopter release. It’s basically a spinner, the bowling ball version of a top, that child’s toy that spins real fast on a table or along the floor until it runs out of momentum and falls over.

For me, a prototypical American bowler, this helicopter technique was crazy. It was heresy. But it was amazingly intriguing. I’ve tried it out a few times in practice with absolutely no success.

The idea, I was told by the commentators, was to take a 10- or 12-pound ball and release it with all this spin. Being a lighter ball, you throw it fast and it doesn’t hook at all.

It doesn’t matter if the ball hits the right side of the head pin, the left side or square on the nose. Every hit just sends pins flying.

Which is what happened on the TV show. In parts of the world where lanes are all beat up or oil conditioner is inconsistent, it takes all that lane maintenance out of the equation.

From what I understand, it’s harder to put long strings of strikes together, but under low-scoring conditions, you’re just looking to get close to 200 anyway.

That’s just one of the innovations people in other parts of the world have made with bowling. I’d love to see it recognized in the Olympics again some day.

Now on to The Mining Journal Bowlers of the Week for Nov. 1-7:

The big star is Norine Maki of Republic in the T&T Ladies League at Country Lanes. League secretary Kris LaForge said she’s “bowled for 45 years straight” and shot 161 pins over her 122 average with a 527 series on games of 169, 184 and 174.

The next highest ladies both came from the Tuesday Night Mixed at Superior Lanes. Amanda Sobczak was 101 over her 96 average with 389 including a 157 high game, while Kimberly Thompson was 99 over her 124 mean with 471 and 194 best.

For the guys, Andy Buckmaster shot 136 over his 198 average with 730 on games of 260, 257 and 213 in the Wednesday Industrial at Superior. Next were two bowlers from the Monday Northern Electric Automotive Industrial League at Country – Northern Michigan University women’s basketball coach Troy Mattson went 116 over his 176 average with 644 and a 245 high, while Joel Vickstrom was 114 over his 180 average with 654 and a 244.