And so it begins. After 12 weeks and 10 games, all the posturing and maneuvering are over. For the first time all year results are significant, as winning allows you to play more games. Groovy. I encourage folks to come out and watch the play-in games as they have the potential to be high-drama. Starting at 6:30 sharp, six teams will be playing one game matches against each other. The winner sticks around for the regular playoffs at 7:15. The losers start building up that bar tab even faster.
Play-In Games: 6:30
#26 UREA! vs #31 Madbotts: UREA! was built for a one game match seeing as they really only have four players. T-$ has been stepping up his game and J-Bird has her team poised to advance. Madgirl will be missing for the Madbotts, and it will be difficult for them without her signature brand of support.
#27 Lesbowlians vs #30 Great Lost Spares: The Spares won this match in the regular season, but in a single game showdown they have no match for Tilt-A-Whirl. I think the Lesbowlians advance.
#28 Three Fingered Willies vs #29 The Who?: 3FW received an emotional boost when Schizo returned to bowl with a broken femur. Dirk and Foxy will be a little much for Ichy and her dance troupe.
The 1st Round:
#5 Dirty Half Dozen (-11) vs 3FW/Who? winner: DHD is rolling hot with a final week tie against Off Constantly. Truth be told they think they let one get away, and they may be right. Still, the performance has them looking forward to potential rematch with OC in the quarterfinals. I think they’ll face 3FW, and 3FW will bow out graciously.
#6 Huevos Rancheros (-9) vs Lesbowlians/GL Spares winner: Once again, the Huevos (formerly Derelicte) have quietly landed near the top of the playoff brackets. They have some tough playoff history to shake, but they have a lot of new faces. I picked the Lesbowlians to get here as the opponent, and I don’t see them having the rollers to keep up with the hungry farmers.
#7 Incredibowls (-7) vs UREA!/Madbotts winner: Last year the Incredibowls rode the ‘disrespect’ card to a series of surprising playoff wins. This year they roll in as a favorite (until round 2). UREA! has finished the season strong, and assuming they get through the play-in, I think they put a slight scare in Boston’s crew for a game before fading.
#8 Saucy Posse (-5) vs #25 Splits Happen: Saucy Posse may be having nightmares about this one. A high ranking, and an opponent that seemingly has no chance but very quietly has come together in their last few weeks. SauPo will have the weight of the world on their shoulders until they grab that first ever playoff W, while Splits has nothing to lose. If Xander has one of his big nights, and Izzy pushes all the right buttons, this could be a tense one. Walter will try to make sure it isn’t.
#9 Young and the Bowled (-3) vs #24 No Pins Intended: No first round game has more drama. First off, several Y&Bers were rumored to be joining No Pins before the season started, only to pop up on a rival roster. Accusations of player-stealing ran rampant. Old friends Lou Dawg and Oolie were pitted against each other. The Y&B’s rose as high as 6th in the rankings before a late season swoon. No Pins started the season ranked high, never to fulfill the predictions. That said, Oolie has has team fired up for this one. Captain Wut What is driving non-stop from Albany to make opening roll. Meanwhile, Lou Dawg is scrambling to fill a roster spot after negotiations to reschedule broke down in acrimony. If you’re just hanging around, grab a front row seat for this one.
#10 B.E.E.R. (-3) vs #23 The Wrecking Balls: Perhaps the second best 1st round storyline, as the Mitchell siblings face off once more. Games between these two franchises always finish close. If they had matched up lat week, the Balls had the score to have pulled off a three point victory. While Swing has played very well the rest of the team has underperformed, but they have the history to show they are dangerous. The Dude has yet to roll a 200, and since pressure rolls off his shoulders, this could be the time. If I-Moan is around and Lefty finds a nice line on the left side, there could be trouble. B.E.E.R. meanwhile is hoping to ride the camraderie built on a road trip to Vermont (see below). On paper, they should cruise. But Filthy and Karl both struggled mightily in the Green Mountain challenge, so Cheddar and Fern will be crucial. Oh yes, don’t forget Tom “Hacksaw” Richards. Last week, the plaid pants and margaritas returned, and Tom was lights out. Expect the tequila to flow.
#11 CB O’Nutz (-5) vs #22 Bowlderdash: If any Captain has broken down the numbers and immersed himself in scouting reports, it would be Michael Bowlton. He has been tracking scores all year, poking holes in my stats. His team may have lost some momentum with two byes in the last four weeks, but I’m sure he’ll have them ready. The Nutz will be ready for them, however. Peanut proved in Vermont she has ice water running through her veins, and her teammates will react to that calmness with a quiet confidence of their own.
#12 Strikes of Hazzard (-3) vs #21 Three Livers: If nothing else, this one should be a party. Two happy-go-lucky teams collide in a playoff match that is likely to have the least tension of any contest this Tuesday. The strikes can’t believe they ended up so high in the rankings, and ae planning to let Uncle Jesse and Mabel Tillingham drive the General Lee. The Livers may be able to raft dwon from The Forks for this one if this rain continues. That would be pretty awesome. I just hope they bring the M&M’s, and finally achieve their year-long Deal or No Deal ticket goal.
#20 Roll Another (-1) vs #13 Gutterballs: C’mon, I had to pick at least one upset, somewhere and this is as good a one as any. The Gutterballs have stumbled across the finish line, sex toys in tow. Rusty Nail has stayed in the Top 10, but his teammates stayed back at week 9. Roll Another are a veteran squad, going into their third playoffs. They’ll need big nights from Uncle Buck and The Package.
#14 ICBING (-3) vs #19 The Pinups: Oh man, how the Pinups have fallen. The Chunk retirement in mid-season shot through them like a bullet, and no one has bowled the same since. Big Ern never stemmed the tide of disappointment. This team looks DOA. ICBING hasn’t exactly been on fire, but Fabio should give them enough to cruise to the Sweet 16. Oh, and the BoPo NCAA Bracket contest comes down to Peanut Gutter (Duke) or Clarified Gutter (W.Va).
#15 TDYOB (-3) vs #18 Happy Hands: This was a quiet season for Sasha and the Hands. They had some ups and downs, but mostly just went about their business. I don’t know what to make of that, but I do know Sasha was fierce last week, giving pause to any playoff opponent. Dr. Thunder thinks that, like a shark, to pause is to drown. His team only goes forward, and that aggressively. They hope to devour some Turkeys on their way to a Sweet 16 berth.
#17 Sweet Rolls (-3) vs #16 Pud’s Taxi: The Uh-Oh Bowl, as the winner earns the minimally fun showdown with Binga’s in the next round. Sweet Rolls is a deeper team. They have a significantly higher average. It would be an upset in seed only. Pud’s has confidence, and a roving dance party. They will be rocking moves ibn the lot postgame, win or lose.
BoPo vs Whisky Gutterball: Showdown on Champlain
Around 1:15 on Friday afternoon, I pulled up to the Marginal Way park and ride and saw eight BowlPortlanders standing at attention, waiting to catch a ride to glory. I honked, we loaded up in our white 12 passenger van, and with a few awkward giggles and comments such as “this is really weird” we were off. The first hour was uneventful, really: I learned to drive a van, swerving to and fro but making steady Vermont-ward progress, and our rollers finished their first 12 pack. The awkwardness was coming off.
Two hours in, and I made what turned out to be a fateful decision – stopping at the New Hampshire liquor store near the junction with 89. It was an event that would have a profound effect on the rest of the day. In the short term, the only noticeable result was Dick Liquor’s repeated urinations in a bottle in the van, and the sweet aroma of Crown emanating from the back rows.
Next milestone: an incredible Vermont rest area. Your BoPo reps are not yokels -we are a worldly bunch – but we took in the pleasures of this rest area as if we were seeing our first electric light or indoor plumbing. This rest area had all sorts of delights. Free coffee (it was a bit watery but I am assured by some of the passengers it tasted great with some Kalhua), rocking chairs so ingeniously crafted it felt you were sitting in a living cradle of midget hands, urinals that not only recycled water but told us that the water in them wasn’t potable, and a gorgeous arboretum with the heat and scent of life itself. I can not say we weren’t a little intimidated by Vermont’s wiles.
From that stop on our minds locked in as one on the challenge awaiting us at Champlain Lanes, and the miles separating us from destiny ticked down one by one. The unity was on tremendous display with beautiful, deafening harmonies filling the van in singalongs of Afternoon Delight and Cracklin Rosie. Say it now, say it now! What only four hours before was a collection of individuals was now a single bowling and singing organism. BowlPortland was alive.
Vermont continued its attempts at seduction, throwing open stunning views of Lake Champlain and mountains as we rolled into Burlington looking for beer. We would not be dissuaded, we were here to wreak bowling havoc. A few happy hour beers were the last pieces of the puzzle, and after a quick drive out of downtown, at 7:40pm, our van pulled up to Champlain Lanes. We were the first to arrive. Actually there was one Whiskier to welcome us, but we definitely had the numbers. Players were chomping at the bit to try out the lanes. The horrible psych-out trick of trying to convince us there was no bar at the lanes was overcome, and we quickly assumed our more natural stances of one hand extended slightly ahead of the body on a bent-elbowed arm, fingers lightly gripping a beverage. We would stand like that until the match began.
At 8:00, we began warmups. The crazy hookers (Filthy, Dick Liquor and myself) were in for a long night. As warmups concluded, the teams gathered around a Whisky Gutterball representative who welcomed us with great enthusiasm, and offered up a bottle of Goldschlager to the night’s victors. Number One grinned a gold-flecked grin, giving away his recently completed head start. Now, it was gametime.
I had devised an ingenious lineup plan, which was immediately discarded. After much last minute shuffling, the teams were set. Let’s take it game by game.
BoPo’s best results came from the team of Number One, Coco, guest, and the shell of Dick Liquor. Number One recorded the night’s first 200, Coco threw a 196 and other strong games, and this group overcame Dick’s kick-fest on the ball return to pick up 3 of a possible 4 points. BoPo’s worst results, scorewise, came from my team, at no fault of my teammates. We were facing WG’s finest, and despite Oolie’s 202, Natro’s 170+, and Fern’s 140+, my 115 contributed to our demise. The hosts posted a 715 or so. We were summarily crushed in game 2 as well, despite Oolie’s strong play, but managed to pull it together in game 3, picking up a point. That made it 4-4. Meanwhile, the middle lanes were hosting the decisive battle. The team of Cheddar, Filthy McNasty, Bubbles and Peanut, or “Filthy Cheddar Peanut Bubbles” squeaked out a game one win, and narrowly lost game 2, with the total pin differential after two games a razor thin 3. With both other matches completed, all eyes turned to this one. Going into the tenth frame, this was definitely anyone’s game. Unfortunately, only Peanut was able to record a mark in the 10th, and the hosts siezed the moment with a strong finish to win the game 3-1, and the event 7-5. Luckily we brought our own Goldschlager.
So what does it all mean? It means the beginning of a perfect rivalry between two leagues that seem to have a lot in common. It means the home team held serve, and the pressure will be on BoPo when WG travels East. Individual goals were accomplished, as Filthy noted. Dick wanted to scare them with drinking capacity. Check. Oolie wanted to make friends. Check. And, after all his attempts to form words had failed for the previous hour, Cheddar grabbed control of his speech functions to ask, at 2:15am on a walk through the park downtown, “Karl, are we drunk?” Yes, Cheddar, yes we were.
Congrats to Whiskey Gutterball for holding serve, and thanks to the BowlPortlanders who made the trek. This is only the first chapter. Next time, I won’t get lost in the White Mountains on the way home, either.
Final Score: Whiskey Gutterball 7 BowlPortland 5