History shows that there are no invincible armies and never have been.
Joseph Stalin, July 3 1941
Hot. Cool. Yours.
Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics Motto
It was little more than a fantasy in 2007. On the storm battered borderland shores of a fading empire,
the inveterate dreamers began the transformation. Tirelessly they toiled for that day when the world’s
finest competitors would descend upon their seaside resort town in the depths of tuque season to seek
glory on the grandest stage. By the miracle of orbit, that day will soon arrive when the faithful can
thrust their arms wide and proclaim “Let BowlPortland Season Seven Begin!”
BowlPortland Seasons One through Six were no doubt amusing and full of whimsy, but they can never
compare to the extravagant spectacle of Season Seven. There are seven days in the week, seven
wonders in the worlds, seven continents on earth, seven players in ultimate, seven colours in the
rainbow, seven nations in the Iroquois Confederacy, and the Dude and six other guys formed the Seattle
Seven. The average adult must read seven supporting statements before believing an author’s premise;
so let it be with you.
If you are member of one of the forty-four teams that lucky enough to be marching on to the Alder
Street lanes this week, you must prepare. No matter how skookum your team is on paper, you will need
to plumb your competitive core to triumph in savage Seven. To aid you in this grueling quest, I have
compiled some sources of inspiration. As that climactic day in April approaches, remember that bowling
is a whole body enterprise: to succeed you need to feed your soul.
Like Stalin, Keep Hope Alive
Addressing his comrades in the summer of 1941 as the German Blitzkrieg bore down on Moscow, Stalin
found hope. The German Army was technologically superior, fully mobilized, better organized, rich in
resources, and led by strategic wunderkinds, but as a history buff, he knew they were an army, and thus
not invincible. “To be ahistorical is hysterical!” he added while getting pissed with his generals on their
escape train to the Urals. Nineteen months, one thousand miles into Russian territory, and 14 million
casualties later his hopefulness was validated when the Russian Army won the Battle of Stalingrad,
ending the German advance and setting the world on course for the day when BowlPortland Season
Seven could become a reality. Thanks Uncle Joe.
Match the Intensity of the Ice Cube
Of all the parallel realities to Bayside, there is a particular venue that will inspire both high and low
rollers come February. Fittingly, a jubilee of competitive cold-weather slipping and sliding events is
being hosted by Stalin’s favourite beach community: Sochi. Enjoy the episodes on the slopes and ovals,
but look to the sheets for a glance at kindred brilliance. A double take-out that comes to rest on the
button rivals a 7-10 split pick up in degree of difficulty, so whenever possible, tune in to the Ice Cube
Curling Centre feed.
Don’t Pull a Schlieffen
2014 marks the one hundred year anniversary of the implementation of the Schlieffen Plan; an invasion
script for the German Army that had them cycling through Belgium in early August and waltzing into
Paris forty days later. Kaiser Wilhelm II loved the screenplay, but he quickly became disenchanted with
the dailies. Schlieffen himself had wisely died in 1913, so the swaggering Kaiser ordered his generals to
stick to the script. For those of you who have not seen the acclaimed Hollywood movie about the Great
War that has never been made, the fortunes of the Kaiser and Germany ended up in the proverbial
garburator. Moral of the story, especially for team captains: plans are nice because they make great
coasters during the actual season, and always maintain contact with the teammate on your left.
February 8, 2014 also marks the one hundred year anniversary of one of sport’s most endearing
triumphs that was tragically overshadowed by the sassy German invasion. On that date in 1914, the
Luxembourg national soccer team defeated France 5-4 in a friendly but passionate match. Zénon
Bernard, one of the heroic goal-scorers, encouraged his teammates throughout the game with repeated
cries of “Just giv’er Luxembourgers!” It was the first and only time that the one-thousand-year-old
castle-turned-grand duchy-turned-tax-haven-country defeated the mighty French. Gutterballers of the
world: remember this cry.
Immerse yourself in these lessons from the past and admonitions for the future as you tackle the
challenges of Season Seven, and when your mind and body yearn for a respite from the pursuit of
greatness, ponder this riddle. Kaiser Wilhelm II is to Queen Victoria as Kiefer Sutherland is to what
Canadian icon (Hint: look to the land of bunny hugs).
I’ve heard reporters say Libya was the perfect war. It was anything but perfect.
James Foley, Inside Gaddafi’s Libya
Anyone can pitch a perfect game, few can roll one. In baseball, a good scouting report, a stiff breeze from left center and a pre-game rumor of urine tests are enough to make a small market lineup whiff like stale milk. In bowling, a perfect game can only be achieved through a stunning feat of repetitive perfection. 300 beats 27 up and down.
Bowling culture also venerates the Dutch 200 for its perfect pattern of triumphs, choke jobs and recoveries. A similar cycle of strikes, gutters and spares can be observed in the annals of civilization, and historians also have a peculiar fetish for the number 200, pronounced ‘bicentennial’. Given this powerful bond between bowling and human history, it is not surprising that the battle to be on the 2012 banner is fiercer than ever. Only one team will be able to boast that they were Bowl Portland champions during the bicentennial of first year of the War of 1812, a war that was anything but perfect, especially for bowlers and the brave citizens of Maine.
Bowlers at the U.S. Military Academy’s West Point Bowling Center have long avoided discussions the War of 1812. Not only did the U.S. Army fail to conquer Canada, it suffered a crushing defeat at the Battle of Lundy’s Lane. Having already lost the Battle of Brooklyn in 1776, the U.S. record in battles with bowling lingo names fell to an abysmal 0-3 in 1878 when the Northern Cheyenne tribe routed the U.S. 4th Cavalry at the Battle of Turkey Springs in Oklahoma. Despite its eventual rise to superpower status and centuries of battles around the globe, the U.S. has not been able to improve this shameful statistic.
The citizens of Maine are even more justified in their bitterness towards the outcome of the War of 1812. The British Navy withdrew from Castine and Eastport at the end of the war, but the Canadians who tagged along during the occupation had the moxie to establish a beachhead on 20-acre Machias Seal Island ten miles south of Cutler, Maine. The treaty ending the war made no mention of this island, but that did not stop Canadian skullduggery. After fishing and lobstering off Machias Seal Island for more than a decade following the war, they built a lighthouse on it in 1832 that they have manned ever since. It’s become a Jeopardy question in the category of Absurd Geographic Paradoxes: This country borders the State of Maine to the west, north, east and south. What is Canada?
The sovereignty of Machias Seal Island is still disputed, making it the only terrestrial boundary dispute between the two nations. Although their ownership is unofficial, Canada designated the island as a migratory bird sanctuary in 1944 with naïve optimism that the U.S. would never invade a bird sanctuary. Mainers continue to set their traps in sight of Machias Seal Island and occasionally come ashore to do their best Neil Armstrong. Canadian Coast Guard officers raise and lower the Maple Leaf daily outside the only manned lighthouse on Canada’s Atlantic coast. It resembles a perfect state of détente, but the island’s puffin colony knows that the truth is far more complex.
Fearmongering in relation to Canada is akin to making a hat out of a watermelon. Nonetheless, there are changes afoot in Loonie Land of which Mainers should be aware. For one, the Canadians are planning to spend $28 million in the next three years to whip up patriotic fervor over their victories at Stoney Creek, Beaver Dams, and several other swamps in southern Ontario. The battle re-enactments alone should not cause concern, but when viewed in conjunction with other 2012 events in Canada, there might actually be something to worry about when the War of 1812’s tricentennial comes around.
One of the first signs of Canadian impetuousness was the campaign to build an oil pipeline through Nebraska’s sacred sand hills (Commies!). Then on February 2nd, Canada’s copycat groundhog meteorologists, Wiarton Willie and Shubenacadie Sam, broke ranks with the American original Punxsutawney Phil and predicted an early spring rather than a longer winter. This was a harbinger of even greater affronts later in the month when Canada brazenly mimicked two more of America’s most cherished pastimes: invasion of privacy and voter suppression.
In the realm of privacy invasion, the Canadian Parliament introduced a bill on St. Valentine’s Day that would allow police to obtain information about citizens’ online activities without a warrant. The bill seemed un-Canadian, but the vehement response was even more shocking. Canadians sent a wave of revealing tweets to the bill’s sponsor, Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews, using the hash tag #TellVicEverything. Be forewarned, this is a sample of Canadian’s private lives:
I had sushi and chocolate milk for lunch. It was a bad combo. #TellVicEverything
My dog pooped in the forest in northern Ontario and I didn’t pick it up. #TellVicEverything
I’ve got a rash. #TellVicEverything
This controversy has not ended, but it has been eclipsed by the voter suppression robo-call scandal related to Canada’s 2011 federal elections. The victors in the election, the Conservatives, are being investigated for instructing their campaign call centers to target likely opposition voters and give them false information about polling places moving or candidates withdrawing. If true, it was a devious exploitation of a charming anachronism: Canadians listen to strangers who call them on the phone.
Thoughts of these troubling events and their implications for Machias Seal Island and the rest of Maine were on my mind this weekend as I watched the provincial bowling league playoffs at Chillibowl Lanes in Chilliwack, BC. The winners will travel to Thunder Bay on the banks of Lake Superior for the national championships. Lake Superior and all the Great Lakes, hosts to grim naval battles during the War of 1812, were demilitarized in 1817 by the Rush-Bagot Treaty (which later became the War’s bowling nickname).
I wanted to feel comfortable surrounded by Canadian bowlers, but something caught my attention and challenged my faith in the past two centuries of peace. Painted on the wall in Chillibowl is an homage to the perfect game, a scorecard with the following frame-by-frame tallies: 45 90 135 180 225 270 315 360 405 450. I am a stranger in a land of five-pins. Somebody please tell me who made the map they used back in 1783, the anything but perfect map on which Machias Seal Island peaks out of a well worn fold, a fold that faded the definitive red line and forever casts this puffin paradise adrift?
Hint: He fixes the cable.
Savoring the Olympic flame as it passed from torch to torch beneath the gaze of a five metre high chainsaw carving of a grizzly bear wearing hockey gear and forechecking a parade of Chinese lanterns, my mind chanced upon the unspoken tragedy of the athletic extravaganza just a few flag parades hence. It’s another even-numbered year, and the assembly of Earth’s greatest athletes is still incomplete. Bowlers in every time zone will continue to push their bodies to the limits of endurance and metaphor, dreaming of the day their passion earns official gold medal status.
In happier days one summer in Seoul, bowlers felt the ancient Greek buzz as a demonstration sport. Barcelona proved to be a bad bottle of Cava for strikers and gutterites, and the sport has not been seen in the games since. As valiantly as the FIQ lobbies the IOC, bowlers must still content themselves with the annual Bowling World Cup. Popular thinking on the movement has become way too uptight. It is time for Olympic bowling advocates to shift their focus 540 ° and apply for entry to the winter games.
Make no mistake: the winter games are struggling. They are the forgotten victims of a forgotten feedback loop, transporting snow by the truckload to replace the snow melted by their media tents. Already there is talk of awarding the next 45 Winter Olympics to Antarctica, as that would give each Antarctic Treaty signatory country the opportunity to profit from irresistible penguin mascots before snow becomes extinct. Brazil, the nineteenth signatory country and thus projected host for 2092, is apparently discussing construction of a mega-resort in the Fimbulheimen range named ‘Reno di Janeiro’.
Bowling is a sport the Winter Olympics needs because it is the perfect sport for 21st century winters. Whatever side of the thermocline you float on, you are wise enough to know that in winter it’s better to be indoors. Here is the world sport that creates a perfect world; no need to wrestle with the vagaries of ice and snow. Winter weather is bad weather, and bowlers make it to the alley no matter how bad it gets outside.
Cynics in need of inspiration need look no further than one of the redeeming triumphs of that old stupid century: the introduction of curling as an official medal sport at Nagano in 1998. The skips and their sweepers launched their ‘curlsade’ 74 years earlier at the first winter games in Chamonix. After three more auditions as a demonstration sport, the IOC finally heard the beauty of the Roaring Game after Lillehammer. The saga is a stirring testament to the indefatigable resolve of competitors who wear collared shirts and slippery shoes.
If you question whether the struggle to become an Olympic sport is worthwhile, take a gander at the drama on the rink these next two weeks in Vancouver. Once you become addicted, imagine that your favorite Bowl Portland teams have morphed into international curling titans, battling on the international stage. The following estimation of appropriate bowling-to-curling team analogies is based on the Week 6 leaderboard, the 2009 World Curling Championships and the remains of some killer Super Bowl chili.
Binga’s Ringa’s : Canada
The host with the most, Canada is the self-proclaimed Eldorado of Curling. Skip Kevin Martin, the Boss of the Rocks, and skip Cheryl Bernard, who started throwing rocks at age 8, both know that Eldorado has nothing to do with silver or bronze.
Off Constantly: Scotland
The inventors of the sport compete valiantly under the flag of Great Britain, their monarchical landlords. The athlete-farmer skip David Murdoch and the young, tattooed skip Eve Muirhead want to recreate ‘the stone of destiny’ that put the Scots on the podium in Salt Lake. Why does Puerto Rico have an Olympic team, but not Scotland?
Urban Achievers: Denmark
The Danes have an axe to grind with the Canadians over the disputed territory of Hans Island halfway between Greenland and Ellesmere Island. Fatalist skip Madeleine Dupont and poker-faced skip Johnny Frederiksen are looking to make a geopolitical statement with their pick shots.
Young & Bowled: Switzerland
The Swiss are a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Hard-driving skip Ralph Stöckli, who took silver at the last World Championships, and skip Mirjam Ott, whose rink shoes were stolen last week in Winnipeg, are out for redemption.
The two-headed threat from the Bundesrepublik comes in the form of skip Andreas Kapp and his brother Uli. Equally formidable is the German women’s team skipped by the venerable Dr. Andrea Schöpp, a former wunderkind of the sport who won bronze at the European Championships at age 15.
Livin’ On A Spare: China
The Chinese are new to the sport, but they are learning to dominate. The women’s team, skipped by Bingyu Wang, won the last World Championships. She is the Coco of the Middle Kingdom.
Pinups: United States
Don’t expect to hear much southern twang in these “HARD” calls. Women’s skip Debbie McCormick was born in Saskatchewan and now lives in Rio, Wisconsin. Men’s skip John Shuster is a Duluthian who goes by the nickname Shoostie.
Saucy Posse: Norway
Although the women’s team did not qualify, the men’s team is skipped by a talent the likes of Walter. Thomas Ulsrud has come close to gold at several recent competitions, and is part of what commentators call “the New World Order” emerging in international curling.
B.E.E.R. : Sweden
The Swedes have a brought case of glögg and a giant bag of nuts and raisins to Vancouver in preparation for a victory party. Skip Anette Norberg, an actuary away from the rink, is the defending Olympic women’s champion, and men’s skip Niklas Edin, a fitness nut like Hungus, is the defending European champion. The Swedish word for beer is öl and the Swedish word for speed is fart.
Huevos Rancheros: Russia
The proud women of Russia have made the trip alone. The skip, Ludmila Privivkova, and the rest of the team are the self-proclaimed “Girls from Moscow.” Since one of the primary drivers of success on the curling rink is the ability to withstand cold, this team can never be counted out.
Dirty Half Dozen: France
Without their women, the French men’s team will be miserable but competitive. Skipped by Thomas Dufour, the French are quite envious of the status curling has in Canada versus their homeland. They refer to Edmonton as “la Mecque.”
Cracked Bowl of Nutz: Japan
Although the men’s team didn’t qualify, the Japanese women’s team is a rising sun. Skip Moe Meguro was just one frame away from the gold medal game at the World’s in 2008, before the Canadian’s stole a point with a brilliant peel. Revenge is dish best served raw.
Unfortunately, that is all of the countries that qualified for the Olympics this year, leaving the rest of the Bowl Portland teams without a nationalistic curling alias for 2010. The following trivia challenge, however, is open to all teams, and the first correct respondent will be rewarded with a goody bag of Olympic paraphernalia direct from British Columbia:
What countries won gold in women’s and men’s Bowling, respectively, when it was a demonstration sport at the Seoul Olympics?
All in favor of Bowling in 2014 in Sochi say “DA!”
A Canadian View of BowlPortland, eh.
“Don’t piss on my rug!”
-U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson to Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, April 1965, Camp David, Maryland, U.S.A.
The Canadian Prime Minister was housebroken, but how else could LBJ respond?In a speech a few days earlier at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pearson had suggested that suspending the bombing campaign in North Vietnam might bring the communist leadership back to the bargaining table.Pearson was apparently skilled in the “black arts” of diplomacy, having served as President of the U.N. General Assembly in 1952 and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957.Nonetheless, it was shocking that a Canadian Prime Minister could be so un-American.
What were the historical antecedents to Pearson’s outburst?Was he avenging the scorn of Thomas Jefferson, who once said that capturing Canada was “a mere matter of marching”?Was he rebuking the incendiary, anti-Canadian, cartographically esoteric 1844 Presidential campaign slogan of James K. Polk: “54°40′ or Fight”?Or was his brazen commentary a symptom of an incurable cultural divergence over the rules of bowling, a fault that began to rift roughly 100 years ago today?
Ten-pin bowling is the sport of kings, enriching the lives of millions in that great democratic experiment Americans call America.Residents of the New England states are familiar with the novel joys of Candlepin bowling, which also requires ten pins.Why Ten-pin bowling has such an ambiguous and inappropriate name is one of the three most puzzling mysteries of modern English.The other two (in no particular order) are: a) Why are some species of sloth called three-toed sloths when all sloths have in fact three toes, and b) Why is the Toronto hockey team called the Maple Leafs instead of the Maple Leaves?
The answer to the ten-pin bowling mystery can be found just across the longest unguarded border on earth circa 2009: the game of five-pin bowling, invented and played exclusively in the Dominion of Canada.The devious mind behind this great schism belonged to Thomas F. Ryan, owner or the Toronto Bowling Club.According to The Canadian Encyclopedia, Ryan modified ten-pin bowling to boost business (p. 212, vol. 1, Hurtig, Edmonton, 1985).Sources state that his clientele found the ten-pin game too strenuous, but alternate reality pundits insist that Ryan was driven by an insidious proto-nationalist, quasi-oedipal desire to discreetly modify American pastimes for Canadian consumption (e.g., have you seen what they did to football? Who wants to sit on the 55-yard line?).
Whatever his motivation, the result was a game with five pins that are shorter and squatter than U.S. ten-pins.Each pin is adorned with a thick blue rubber band around the waist that not only causes the pins to fly farther when struck, but also makes them less noisy; Toronto was evidently a cosmopolitan trailblazer in regards to nuisance ordinances.The five-pin bowling balls are smaller too, though New Englanders can take heart that Candlepin balls are still the smallest.
This quirky half-sport might exist only on north shore of Lake Ontario were it not for the extraordinary outcome of the Oregon Crisis of the 1840s.Despite his fiery geomatic rhetoric, two years after election Polk broke his campaign promise and agreed to 49° north as the boundary line from the Rockies to the Pacific.The compromise kept alive the possibility of a transcontinental Canada, but the traditional and sole navigable route down the Columbia River to the sea was suddenly blocked by a new abstract boundary.In 1848, the panicked fur traders of Vancouver Island paddled up the Fraser River to a large bend a few miles downstream from the impassable Fraser River Canyon, featuring the seething, canoe-crushing, salmon-flinging rapids of Hell’s Gate.On a small flood plain surrounded by mile-high mountains they established Fort Hope, as in “I hope we can find a way to Winnipeg from here.”
One hundred and sixty years later, two veteran slingers of Yankee Lanes walked into Fraser Bowl & Racquetball in Hope, BC determined to test their mettle against Ryan’s rules.The five-pin game had beaten its ancestral rival to Hope, traveling over 2,700 miles of the Canadian Pacific Railway (via Winnipeg).The five pins were arranged like a flock of migrating geese wearing speedos.The balls were palmable and chocolate swirled.
Thanks to automation, the slingers were able to focus their energies on shot-making and let the ghosts in the machine do the scoring.It was instantly apparent that all five pins are not created equal; knocking down the head pin earns five points, the next two on its tail are worth three, and the last two lagging in the corners rack up deuces.One can’t help but wonder about Ryan’s affinity for a certain 13th century Italian mathemagician.
Ryan also gave players three shots per frame, which seemed to conflict with his alleged motive to make the game less strenuous.Like ten-pin, however, a spare was awarded for knocking down all pins in two shots, not three.Because a strike yielded 15, ten frames of perfect five-pin bowling would register 450 on the awesome scale, and any score over 400 would certainly be far out.
Unnerving nuances aside, the déjà vu-already seen quality of the atmosphere stimulated the intrepid aliens to excellence.A black light and disco provided the requisite teenage angst overlay for a classic rock soundtrack featuring a Golden Earring song that wasn’t Radar Love, a Rush (surprise!) song that wasn’t Tom Sawyer, and a Heart song that wasn’t Magic Man.If you can guess all three, you will win a laminated Canadian flag for your car antenna courtesy of BowlPortland.
Lucky winners: as you gaze at the maple leaf wiggling in the breeze, thing of the Right Honourable Carpetpisser Lester B. Pearson.Two months prior to his micturating incident in North Philly, Pearson’s long fought campaign to create a new Canadian flag had come to a successful conclusion.The stylish red and white and leafy pennant, officially recognized by Her Majesty on February 15, 1965, replaced a series of Union Jack derivatives that closely resembled Bermuda’s flag and caused undue confusion at international hockey tournaments.
The triumphant Pearson was no doubt feeling a bit heady in the Spring of ‘65, a condition that may excuse his outlandish suggestion of a peaceful solution to a U.S. foreign policy dilemma.Our heroine, known in some circles as S-Bomb, was certainly feeling heady after she lit up a 182 in her first game of five-pin.Her sidekick was unafraid and unashamed with his 151 + 1.Both resolved to return in search of higher scores, inspired by the notion that you can be proudly un-American, even in a bowling alley.