An Introduction to Bowling
by Scott Berk
Bowling. Perhaps no other participation sport better embodies the spirit of America. Indeed, the very object of the game, to throw heavy objects in order to knock over everything in one's path, rather completely summarizes the American attitude. But, as much as we would like to, we Americans cannot take the credit for the birth of this sport. In fact, the human propensity to hurl and to topple pre-dates recorded history, and the history of bowling is both twisted and colorful. Bowling is the first sport in recorded history. Relics which were no doubt primitive pins and balls have been found in Egyptian tombs dating back to 5200 B.C. Some Polynesian cultures practiced a kind of bowling game with a "lane" size of sixty feet, the same length as modern ten-pin lanes! But we really owe the development of bowling to German religious leaders in the 3rd Century, A.D. There, in the cloisters of cathedrals, monks used a pin called a "kegel" to represent the devil, and evil in general. The congregation was called upon to hit the target, thus showing themselves to be pure and free of sin. If you failed, you were proved wicked, and only regular church attendance (and more practice!) could purge you of your evil ways. It was perhaps the only time in history that bowling could lead to salvation, and bowling practice was mandatory. As the game became popular even outside the church, Martin Luther, creator of the Protestant movement, undertook a study to standardize the game. The number of pins was fixed at nine, and bowling became an important part of German culture. Indeed, children were taught that thunderstorms were due to St. Peter and the angels bowling. As bowling spread throughout Europe, however, its purity was tainted. Bowling alleys became places to unlawfully assemble and plot against the government. The sport also attracted gamblers and other less acceptable members of society. Bowling was declared illegal and denounced by Puritanical religious leaders as a path away from righteousness, quite opposite from it's beginnings in the German cloisters. But the power of bowling prevailed. It came to America with the Dutch and the Pilgrims, only to fall into the hands (and pockets) of unscrupulous gamblers and crooks. Nine-pin bowling was once again declared illegal, but, to get around the law, ten-pin bowling was invented. By 1895, when the American Bowling Congress was started, bowling was again part of our growing American culture. With the advent of the automated pinsetting machine in the late 1950's, bowling became, through the concerted public relations campaigns of the Brunswick Corporation, a sport for the entire family. Today, the A.B.C. is the largest participation-sport organization in the world. An estimated 50 million bowlers exist in the U.S. alone.
And yet, there are some who still look down on bowling, as if it were somehow beneath them. These are the people of which we must be aware! In a world of fascist, burgeoise golfers, bowling is the game of the proletariat -- THE PEOPLE'S GAME! So embrace it! Cast off the shackles of the class struggle, and unite in the spirit of fun and fair play! From ancient Egypt to the German monks to "Another Fine Brunswick Family Recreation Center", the legacy of the world's oldest sport lives on in all of us! Grab your ball! Put on those funky shoes! And BOWL! BOWL LIKE THE WIND!
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