Has bowling been getting a little bit more respect lately?
It seems that way. It’s difficult to pinpoint the reason, but bowling doesn’t seem to be an easy mark for putdowns any more.
Remember when Hollywood icon Susan Sarandon was promoting her ping-pong social clubs and she took a paddle to bowling?
Talking about the virtues of her game, Sarandon said her venture stood apart from bowling because “you don’t have to wear someone else’s shoes.”
That was not a soulful thing for the 67-year-old Sarandon to say. But that was last year.
Since making that well-circulated comment, perhaps she’s been reminded that bowling is the No. 1 participatory sport in the U.S. And perhaps Sarandon recognizes that both sports can not only survive – but thrive – without either sport serving up digs to the other.
Now here is what Sarandon said this year. “Ping-pong cuts across all body types and gender – everything, really – because little girls can beat big-muscle guys,” she told the Guardian, the British national daily newspaper. “You don’t get hurt; it is not expensive; it is really good for your mind. It is one of the few sports that you can play until you die.”
Not sure if Sarandon (shown in photo) had bowling in mind when she referred to a “few sports.” But bowling has been toasted by players in their 60s, 70s and 80s not because they can keep playing the sport – but that they can maintain their same level of performance. And some can even put up their best numbers ever.
Witness what former major leaguer Rick Auerbach did last year at the age of 62 – smoking his first 800 series. His scores were 276, 276 and 266 for an 818 series. “It’s weird,” Auerbach said at the time. “I should be getting worse, not better. I don’t know how to explain it.”
Top woman bowler Diandra Asbaty of Chicago showed last year what could happen when someone denigrates her sport. Los Angeles Times sports columnist T.J. Simers made a cutting remark about bowling – all in fun, but it was something to which Asbaty responded in the strongest terms.
“I’ve been practicing since I was 5 years old and I’ve been playing tournaments. I sweat. I throw a 15-pound ball. I fail and I win. I want bowling to get the respect it deserves,” said Asbaty, who won last year’s United States Bowling Congress Queens tournament, one of only two majors for women.
And Asbaty added: “The beauty of bowling goes deep. It can show you the world. I’ve been all around the world meeting people and seeing lifestyles I wouldn’t have seen if I hadn’t been a bowler.”
Asbaty is an extremely vocal bowling ambassador who helps other players feel proud to take part in their sport. L.A. has its share of bowling ambassadors – people like standouts Auerbach, Bob Englehart, Kelly Gold and Bryan Alpert, all of whom will talk all day and night about their sport.
There are bunches of others in L.A. who serve as bowling ambassadors. They may not match the talent of Auerbach and Englehart and Gold and Alpert, but they're passionate about the game just the same – people such as Carol Tucker, Siena Cawelti, Theo Sojourn and Greg Kolski. And that enthusiastic team of Stacey Tarantino, Jaye Rettedal, Ann Egan and Laura Coury shows what Showtime can be like in league bowling.
So you want to hurl an insult at bowling? With all the bowling ambassadors out there, that shot will only be deflected to the gutter.