Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bowling for Barack

We recently expressed concern about the White House's failure to take advantage of President Barack Obama's athletic ability. The president, we posited, is a serious basketball player and should be able to put on a respectable performance on most any sporting stage. But Obama has flopped in unfamiliar surroundings, such as the baseball field and the bowling alley, and we even offered to help out the president.

Is it silly to worry about whether the president can throw out a decent ceremonial first pitch or reach a triple-digit score in bowling? Maybe it is. After all, athletic ability certainly is not a requirement for our nation's highest office. But here's our point: When you have a president who is a good athlete--and Obama's hoop skills show that he is--it's a shame not to take advantage of it.

And so, as a service to the country, our Legal Schnauzer team has developed a primer to help the president with the sport that seems to bedevil him the most. We're talking about bowling.

Now I'm hardly an expert on bowling; I've never had a lesson. But I did grow up in the Midwest, and bowling is big in that neck of the woods. Bowling tends to be big in places where you have lots of cold, dark nights in the winter. It also tends to be big in places where people like to drink beer.

My childhood friends and I became semi regulars at several of the bowling alleys in our town--and we eventually became decent bowlers. One of my favorite haunts was Sherm Lollar Lanes, named for the former major-league baseball player who lived in our town. In fact, I can remember many times Sherm Lollar himself would take our money and hand us our bowling shoes for an afternoon on the lanes. (Going back into the archives, I found this newspaper article about Sherm Lollar Lanes opening in 1959, three years after I was born.)

My friends and I, of course, weren't old enough to partake of adult beverages. But we couldn't help noticing that the bowling alley included a bar called The 11th Frame. We thought that was an incredibly cool name for a bowling-alley bar.

Obama spent much of his childhood in Hawaii, so he had little reason to get out of the cold by going to a bowling alley. That's why he needs my help. That's why he must never repeat that performance during the 2008 presidential campaign, when he bowled a 37--with television cameras rolling.

I might not be an expert on bowling, but I'm pretty sure I could roll a 37 blindfolded. So here are a few Legal Schnauzer tips for the First Bowler:

* Make sure you get a ball that isn't too heavy for you. Regular bowlers, particularly guys, tend to roll 15- or 16-pound balls. But that's pretty heavy for a slender guy who doesn't bowl much. I would recommend a 12-pound ball. Might not produce as much pin action as the heavier balls, but it at least helps you find the pins.

* Make sure you get a ball that fits your hand fairly well. My guess is that Obama bowled a 37 partly because he just picked up a ball off the rack, and it didn't fit him. The holes might have been too big. The holes might have been spaced too far apart or too close together. It can be very difficult to control a bowling ball that doesn't fit you.

* Keep your eye on the arrows. Obama probably had his eye on the pins as he prepared to bowl. But I learned early on that you want to keep you eyes on the arrows that are a few feet down the alley, just past the foul line where you are supposed to release the ball. The easiest thing to do, for a beginner, is to eyeball the center arrow and try to roll your ball right over that. If you do that, with a nice follow through, you ought to knock down quite a few pins. Big-time bowlers know how to enhance pin action by hooking the ball, making it curve into the pocket. But us regular folks can have a lot of fun by just rolling it straight down the alley.

The bottom line? Bowling might be the easiest of all sports, far easier than basketball. This little primer from a dunderhead like me probably could triple Obama's bowling score--well short of a perfect 300, but nicely into respectable three-digit category.

The key thing is this: Obama's a cool guy, and we want him to look cool. Also, we don't want our commander-in-chief to be the butt of jokes. Gosh, what if Obama is on a trip to Russia, and Vladimir Putin wants to roll a few frames?

Our goal is to get the president well over the "gentleman's 40" that was at the heart of a classic scene from Scrubs, one of our TV favorites.

Thanks to the wonders of YouTube, we can check out that scene, where J.D. and Turk are enjoying a round of bowling with a couple of female friends. (Note: Earlier in this episode, J.D. had some wacky encounters with Hari Krishnas and black fraternity brothers. That explains his run-in with those groups at the bowling alley. I don't recall details about the encounter with the Hari Krishnas. With the other guys, I think J.D. had shown up at a Halloween party in black face, not realizing it was being hosted by some of Turk's black fraternity friends.)

Apparently, no new episodes of Scrubs are forthcoming. But the show's classic moments will live forever on YouTube. Enjoy.

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