Buena Lanes, Ventura, CAI did something at the bowling alley yesterday I’m quite proud of, but maybe I shouldn’t be. After you read this tell me, should I have been proud of what I’d done?

It was the first day of the Senior Summer League bowling. It’s a day of some excitement for new bowlers, a day of strategy for seasoned bowlers, and a day of hope for all of them.

Most of the year in a handicapped league winning and losing is not based on actual scores. It’s based on the scores plus handicaps. Each player’s handicap is established on the first day based on the bowler’s average for the first three games. It’s a slightly complicated system and I won’t bore you with it here. Suffice it to say everybody begins with a zero average and a zero handicap. Everyone is expected to bowl well. However, someone who has bowled in a handicapped league before also doesn’t want to bowl much better than he or she usually bowls because a smaller handicap than the bowler is used to would act as a penalty and make it harder for him or her to score well enough to help the team.

Thus most seasoned bowlers will be afraid to bowl well and will often try not to bowl especially well. To bowl poorly on purpose is called sandbagging.

I did a little sandbagging.

My average is usually around 155. Going into the 10th frame of the first game my score was 150. I knocked down nine pins, leaving the #7 pin standing. If I missed it my score would stay at 159. If I knocked it down my score for the game could have been as high as 170. Normally, I would have tried to knock down the pin and tried for that 170 score. However, since 159 was higher than my usual average, I purposely missed the pin. I wasn’t proud of it, but I was okay with what I’d done. Until that last ball, I’d done my best to bowl well.

The second game was similar. I’d bowled well and going into the 10th frame my score was 155. Since 155 was my usual average I didn’t want to knock down a lot of pins, so I instead of throwing the ball so it would hook I threw it from the same spot I usually do in the same way I usually do except that I made sure it wouldn’t hook. I knocked down four pins. My score was again, 159 but I had another ball to throw. This time I did the exact opposite I made sure it would hook so much that it went across the alley missing all the pins.

bowling scoreboard showing 159 gameNow I had two games with a 159 score.

The third game was similar to the first two. I bowled well again and went into the 10th frame at 148. I decided I was going to try to get 11 pins. My first ball was a strike, meaning I had to roll the ball twice but get just one pin. I decided to try to pick up just the #7 pin. However, I decided if I picked up more than one I’d try to get the rest of them with the second ball. In other words, it was either one more pin and a 159 game or try for a 168 game. My first ball went down the alley, headed for the #7 pin, but dropped into the gutter so that my score was still 158. One more try. Again the ball rolled down the alley, then turned to the left and headed for the #7 pin. Would it miss and drop into the gutter again, leaving me at 158 or would it clip the four pin before hitting the seven pin, leaving me with a score in the 160s?

I bent over in anticipation, trying to get closer and guide the ball into the #7 pin. My teammates knew what I was trying to do. They were cheering me on. Everything seemed to slow down. The sounds behind me were like someone had turned a turntable down from 78 to 33 1/3, just crawling along, almost indistinguishable.

Then everything returned to normal the moment we heard a sound that went, Clunk, as the ball hit the seven pin knocking it back off the alley, giving me three 159 games in a row.

Later the scorekeeper who hadn’t been watching looked at my scores and said, “Did you do this on purpose?”

Proudly I said, “Yes.”

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