Growing up, I played a few sports for quite a while. I got pretty decent at both baseball and soccer due to my small size and relative quickness. I even ran track. But that doesn’t really count, since I quit after the second practice (almost as long as I worked at AAA).

I played baseball every year until I got into high school. One year they called me “the white Vince Coleman” after I stole nine bases in a single game (each one three times, including home). Another year, I was batting dead last in the lineup and came up to bat in the bottom of the last inning with two outs and we were down by two with the bases loaded. I cranked out an inside-the-park grand slam to win the game. The next game I was batting clean up. Surely, my finest moment.

My success in soccer was much less, though I wasn’t all that bad. I was generally a defender and even though I was tiny, wasn’t afraid to stand up to guys that were eight inches taller than me and outweighed me by 60 pounds.

Bowling team

Dig those hiked up sweatpants (far left, 1989)

But the sport I was best at was bowling. If you’re going to say, “But bowling’s not a sport!” just shut up for now and pretend it is.

I started by bowling in Saturday morning leagues at Medford Lanes. I bowled with Jason, my best friend from middle school, and we were paired up with two older guys, Ken and Todd. Since Ken and Todd were veterans, we let them decide on the name for our team. The first year, the plan was to be the “Erection Connection.” Scary thing is, we were allowed to keep the name (thanks to Janet, the very cool older woman who ran the league), but our name was never announced out loud. I believe we may have won the championship that year, even though Jason and I were still pretty green.

The next year we teamed up again, this time as “Sexual Chocolate.” We didn’t win the championship, but still managed to do quite well. I even took lessons from a pro during the week. If my memory serves me, this was the year that I bowled my high game and high series. If we were unable to make it on any particular Saturday, we were allowed to pre-bowl earlier in the week and our scores would be counted. One week, I pre-bowled and threw a 231, my high game. The other two games in the series were good enough to put me over 600 (meaning I averaged a bit over 200 per game). I was the only one that could celebrate my good luck, though, since I was bowling alone. In fact, that Saturday there was a big controversy because the opposing team thought I had cheated. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and they realized I wasn’t the type to cheat, but it wouldn’t be the last time that I’d be accused of such at that bowling alley.

Bowling team

The Bitter Bowler (far right, 1992)

During my sophomore year of high school, I joined the school’s bowling team. I was only on the JV squad, but I still managed to do relatively well. If I had kept bowling, I probably would have made the Varsity team the following year… and I would have kept bowling if my coach wasn’t such a prick.

Two or three weeks into the season, it became almost depressingly funny how Mr. Bacon would always come up to me at a match and say, “Are you on the Shawnee squad?” despite the fact we only had nine guys on the whole team. I don’t think he and I ever had a single conversation the entire season, and I doubt he learned my name.

By the time the end of the season rolled around (har!), I was kind of on the fence as to whether or not I’d bowl during my junior year. We closed the season with a match against some other area high school, which didn’t count for a whole lot since we were both middle-of-the-road teams in the standings. The lanes at Medford were acting funny that day, though, where the foul light would go off when it clearly shouldn’t have, so both teams agreed to ignore the foul lights for the rest of the match and score normally. My turn came around and the foul light went off and I wrote my score with a wax pencil on the overhead scoresheet (no electronic scoring then, folks), ignoring the foul. Mr. Bacon came up to me with the coach from the other team and flat out accused me of cheating. He ignored me when I told him that both teams had agreed to ignore the foul lights since they weren’t functioning correctly (and the other team validated this). I couldn’t believe that he wouldn’t even hear my side of the story when he should have been defending me to the other coach. If he had any clue as to my personality, he would have known that I would never have cheated, especially on something as inconsequential as bowling. He pushed the fact enough that I decided then and there that I was done with school bowling for good. He was an asshole to me all year and it culminated on that last day.

These days I don’t bowl a whole lot, though I’ve picked up the frequency a bit in recent months. I still manage to average about 150 and could probably hold my own in a league, but I haven’t joined one. I think the fear of being accused of cheating still looms over my innocent head.

Thanks, Mr. Bacon.