My Monday night bowling league has three unspoken rules.
Rule #1: Don’t distract the other bowlers.
My dad, Bob, does not follow rule number one. Not even a little bit. He’s chatty, for starters, always telling stories about the last crappie he caught or that one time his dog, Gus, fell out of the fishing boat. “You should have seen the poodle paddle,” he’ll say, elbowing your ribs a little too hard. Funny joke, Dad.
While other bowlers watch Monday Night Football, dink around on their smart phones, or try to figure out how they’ll pick up a tricky spare, my dad stands close, tells one-liners, and generally prevents them from thinking about the pins and the score. It’s distracting, yes, but it’s also the whole reason people go to bowling alleys: To yak it up with friends, drink some beers, and maybe bowl some. Maybe.
Far more distracting than his commentary, however, is my dad’s method of celebrating. You see, when he throws a strike, he makes a full-on scene, dancing on his tiptoes and yelling “Yabba Dabba Do” all the way back to his beer. Just try hitting the head pin with Fred Flintstone jumping around inside your personal bubble. It ain’t happening.
Rule #2: Keep liquid away from the lanes.
Have you ever seen a bowler fall flat on his back? One second he’s mid-stride, arm fully extended with the ball behind his back, and the next thing you know the ball’s sailing for the gutter and those bright white bowling sneakers are straight up in the air. Bowler down! It’s hilarious.
Hilarious… until it happens to you. I landed right on my tailbone once. For the whole month of March 2012, it hurt to fart.
My dad has hit the deck a few times, too, so like any experienced bowler, he understands the dangers posed by spilled beverages, wet shoes, and slippery floorboards. He’s pretty good about rule number two.
But how do you keep the beer off the floor? I mean, accidents happen, right? Well, rather than abstaining from alcohol while at the alley — which just is not an option, OK — we keep our pitchers and pints of Summit Extra Pale Ale up on the counter, away from the ball return and that slick, slick wood.
And why Summit EPA? To be honest, some nights I’d rather have a hop bomb. My dad, on the other hand, would rather have Summit Pilsener, his beer of choice since back when it was called Summit Grand. We compromise on Summit EPA because I like the citrus hop bite, and Dad likes the caramel malt sweetness.
Yeah, it’s a damn fine craft beer in its own right. It isn’t a lite beer or some corn-flavored macro. It’s been a traditional, local, award-winning beer for almost as long as my dad’s been a dad. To put it simply, it’s the best damn beer in the bowling alley by a long shot, and that’s about the only thing Dad and I can agree on — besides the fact that we’re both bald as bowling balls.
Rule #3: Knock down more pins than pints.
My dad and I have been bowling together every Monday night for ten years, and here’s the truth: We stink. Both of us. Sure, we have a good game or even a good week here and there, but those are few and far between. More often, we throw gutter balls and splits and fail to pick up our spares.
But we keep going back to the bowling alley. Maybe it’s for the beer, the buffalo wings, or the vending-machine Snickers, or maybe it’s because once in a while we talk and laugh and start to understand each other a little better. Bowling is a tradition, anyway. And traditions are important.
P.S. This year our team placed first among 13 teams, which is our best finish since like ever. Dad says Summit EPA turned us into world-class bowlers. He’s probably right. Dads usually are.