Another Sports Story…. A Treasure Box Story

20 Jul

Somewhere in the fine print I have talked briefly about my enjoyment of bowling.  As many of you know, my 1st sports love is golf, at my best I was only poorly good at it, but I loved it.  Bowling I was pretty good, never great, but I didn’t embarrass myself at a bowling alley.

My earliest memories of bowling were as a kid, Dad taking the family on bowling adventures.  I have no idea what I may have bowled, the only a few clear memories is that I did so in sock feet, and Dad only took us a few times. 

I started bowling in earnest when I joined the Navy, it was one of 5 main events to do while in port and not working, in no particular order these five activities were; golf, bowling, drinking, cards and go-cart racing.  The changing of money always took place no matter the activity.  During my Navy years I won more often than not, playing card, go-cart racing and bowling.  I could hold my own at golf, and we were all pros at drinking. 

But this is about bowling.  I don’t care what anyone says about bowling it is a sport.  And as much as I loved golf, I never really practiced, but I practiced at bowling, and I practiced hard.  I was never in more than 1 league at a time, and unless involved in a tournament I only bowled 3 games a week in competition. But for years I would bowl an additional 30 games a week in practice. I worked to make myself better, and I changed equipment when I felt it would help my game and at one point even had a coach.

I was involved in league bowling for 23 consecutive years.  I was involved in youth bowling for 5 years, 3 of those my daughter bowled, and then I coached youth bowling for 2 years.   I also bowled in summer leagues for 4 years.  One was a men’s commercial league which was the most cut throat league I ever bowled in.  Minimum average allowed 170; I barely slipped in with my 171 average at the time.  But it was also the only time I won a major individual award.  During that league I bowled my career best 279, with handicap it equaled a 307 which was single game high handicap score for the season, for which I was awarded the High Handicap Game Award, and it was also tied for 3rd best scratch score for the season. 

Over the course of my 23 year run of bowling I was fortunate to meet, become friends with, and bowl for and against a guy named Robert.  We met on a Tuesday night mixed league not far from we lived in Alexandria, VA. I am not going to say that Robert and I became friends immediately, but we had enough mutual interest that friendship happened. As bowlers we were competitive having approximately the same average, as guys we shared a sense of humor and a sense of right and wrong.  As we aged we shared info about our ailments, Robert was on the kidney transplant list, but never made it to the top.   My issues with my knees became changed to COPD.

Robert loved bowling, and talked and talked about putting together a team to participate in the United States Bowling Congress (USBC) Tournament. He asked me if I would want to take part, and off handedly said sure, he had talked about this team for a couple of years and I didn’t see it happening.  Smiling, in October of 1997 Robert approached me and said remember you said you would be willing to participate if I put together a team for the National Tournament, I said sure I remember.  And off we were.  At the time of my beginning to bowl this tournament, my league average was a solid 182. Which meant on any given week you could expect me to throw one game in the 215 – 220 range or one in the 160 – 180 range, I was considered above average.  February 1998 was the first of ten years of bowling in the National Tournament. Picture 1 shows the original team; we had to pick up a 5th at the tournament. Picture 2 shows the last team, Robert had lost his battle with kidney disease, and that’s his shirt draped over the bowling ball. Over those 10 years we bowled in the following: Reno NV – 1998, Syracuse NY – 1999, Albuquerque, NM – 2000, Reno NV – 2001, Billing MT – 2002, Knoxville TN – 2003, Reno NV – 2004, Baton Rouge LA – 2005, Corpus Christi, TX – 2006, Reno NV – 2007. 


Bowling Team 1998

Bowling Team 2006

I need to point out what a generous man Robert was, both in spirit, love, and financial.  I bowled in the tournament for 10 years, Robert would not allow me or any of the other members to pay their bowling fees, he could claim it’s his party, and he was paying.  After the 1st year Robert bought the teams uniform shirts (so we could get the annual team spirit award), again he would foot the bill, smiling, he even made special considerations for my Pillsbury Doughboy body, and made sure that no matter what color or style they came in the size I needed to be comfortable.  Year each he would gather the team at the hotel restaurant for a team meal, this included spouses and children that came, which at times numbered up to 12 or 15 folks, and he paid for dinner, drinks, appetizers, deserts, the works as his gift to those that participated with him.  I am also sure that more than once he picked up the cost for accommodations and travel for some team members over the years.  His only request of us was that we allow him to do scheduling around his need for dialysis, and his need for time to recuperate from that ordeal.  To a one we immediately concurred.  Now I know I am making Robert out to be a “saint,” well let me just say this.  From time to time I have been accused of cussing like a sailor, smiling; Robert from time to time could even make me blush.  And lord did he kick the equipment LOL LOL, which is a big no no.  He had been warned about that more than once.  As his skills waned because of his illness, he took it out on the equipment but right or wrong I understood. But folks I still looked at him as a saintly kinda guy.  He had such a wonderful heart, and he fought his illness in such a courageous manner, I suspect part of him is guiding me.

LOL I have stories about each of the events ranging from G rated all the way thru, well you get the picture.  Maybe someday there will be a part two to this post where I speak to them.

Quickly the tournament consisted of each bowler bowling 9 games over a 24 to 36 hour period.  The games were grouped 3 and 6 or 6 and 3. The three games made of the team event.  The 6 games made up the Single and Double events.  Single and doubles were always bowled together, and the team event was always team. So you would never go to the stadium and see some bowlers bowling singles and doubles, and others bowling the team event. 

The USBC stadium is a traveling circus that will/would take up residence in the host city for almost 9 months. They brought the bowling lanes, score board, inspection equipment, inspectors, equipment mechanics, and other personal with them from city to city, and the rest of the needed personal came from the local area.  The Stadium itself was made up of 100 lanes split in the middle with a 12 foot wide carpeted pathway where the bowlers marched in and to their assigned lanes.  Many of you have been to a bowling alley so you know your score is monitored and kept track of on a small TV screen placed 10 feet in front of you.  At the stadium, the scoreboard it like a jumbotron. It stands about 30 feet tall, and your name appears in 2 foot high characters, in bright yellow. And your score is displayed directly below your name, and because of the size and brightness of the scoreboard it can be seen in different time zones. If you’re in the space shuttle, at the right time you could probably see the scoreboard.  This was the single most intimidating sight I have seen period.   

Now some Tournament Bowling facts and facts about my experience; 

o   When the stadium was not repeat not in use you could not practice bowl there.

o   When the tournament started for the team even you were only allowed to throw 2 practice balls (one on each lane).

o   The very 1st three balls I bowled at my 1st tournament were all gutter balls.

o   The 1st game I bowled in tournament bowling was a 97, almost 90 pins under my average.

o   If you added the score for my 1st 2 games of tournament play you beat my 182 average by seven pins.

o   It wasn’t until my 3rd tournament which would have been in Albuquerque did I manage to break 200.

o   During practice before the Syracuse Tournament was the time I bowled 14 consecutive strikes.

o   If memory serves at all, only one year did I actually bowl over my average for the entire 9 games.

o   Because of rain storms in Corpus Christi the lanes were temporarily damaged due to water on the lanes.  Our Single/Doubles matches were bowled at 2:45am (completed at 4:15am) these games had been schedule for 10pm.  We were back at the Stadium at 10am to bowl the team event.  I did not do well that year.  Me and one of the guys spend a good portion of the time waiting for the single/double events at an adult beverage establishment, not only were we exhausted we were half in the bag.   

o   Over the 10 year run of tournament I actually cashed twice, once in a single event and once in the doubles event.  I have framed copies of both checks, and trust me neither covered even a 1/10 of the costs.  But at least cashed.

o   On average 12,000 to 16,000 bowlers take part in the tournament annually.

o   A team consists of 5 people, and when you bowl an event you are marched into the stadium. One time in Reno there were 500 bowlers marched in at the same time. That was cool.

o   My career best game was 279.

o   My career best series (a series is 3 games) is 665.

o   My career worse score for a single tournament game was 97.

Folks that’s about as much bowling information that you will ever want, I suspect when the time comes Cari won’t even make it thru the entire post LOL.  As always if you have any questions, concerns or comments please feel free to ask.  Take care, Bill.


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24 responses to “Another Sports Story…. A Treasure Box Story

  1. Brenda Davis Harsham

    July 20, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    Robert sounds like a great guy, kicking the equipment and all. Lovely reminiscence.

  2. Chatter Master

    July 20, 2014 at 8:46 pm

    Thanks for sharing your friend with us Bill. I think it’s wonderful to remember and carry on his memory. I also appreciate the team including his shirt in that last picture. I hope there are many others who remember him with such fondness.

    • FlaHam

      July 20, 2014 at 9:18 pm

      Colleen, Robert was liked far and wide, when he passed, I of course went to his funeral. I was blown away by the sheer number of folks that came by and paid their respects. It was a fit service for an honorable man. I am sure he is still well thought of. Please take care, Bill

      • Chatter Master

        July 21, 2014 at 5:52 am

        🙂 From what you said, I can picture this very well. I really do appreciate hearing about people like this. So again, thank you Bill. I’m sure Robert is very happy being so well and lovingly remembered. ❤

        • FlaHam

          July 21, 2014 at 6:15 am

          Colleen, Robert was a good person, he really was good to the core. Smiling he had rough edges, sometimes he looked mad at the world. But that couldn’t hide his true colors. He was a good man. In reflection, I believe I am modeling my behavior about my end of retirement, pretty much as I witnessed how he handled his. Or maybe we were more alike than either of us gave credit. I do miss him. Take care, Bill xoxo

  3. The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap

    July 20, 2014 at 10:11 pm

    Thank you for this one, Bill. Loved the words an photo. A special homage to your friend. A privilege to share. ❤

    • FlaHam

      July 21, 2014 at 6:10 am

      Paulette, Robert was unique in his own way. Cultured Redneck comes to mind or Solid blue collar. Our friendship could have grown, but he was taken away before it had fully developed. Thank you for understanding. Take care, Bill

  4. huntmode

    July 21, 2014 at 9:06 pm

    So good to hear your joy in this writing, Bill! Robert sounds like a peach, a cuss’n peach, to be sure, but a peach and a verra good man to know and spend time with. Thanks, Bill!

    • FlaHam

      July 21, 2014 at 10:27 pm

      Hunt, as always thanks for taking the time to read and comment on the post. Robert was a good man. It was a joy to write this story about him. I do miss him, and I miss bowling with him. Take care, Bill

      • huntmode

        July 21, 2014 at 10:46 pm

        Your missing him and your love for him shines through, Bill. 🙂

  5. Clowie

    July 24, 2014 at 11:08 am

    It sounds like you had loads of fun bowling. I’ve never been in a bowling alley, but my bipeds like to play occasionally. I think they’d be jealous of your scores though!

    • FlaHam

      July 25, 2014 at 7:15 am

      Clowie, Oh Clowie your right, I had tons of fun, and made many good friends during my years of bowling, tell your bipeds they have nothing to fear, bowling is great fun no matter your skill level. Over the years my skills have gone, but I still visit the many friends I have made bowling. Take care, and be safe. Bill

  6. sheridegrom - From the literary and legislative trenches.

    July 24, 2014 at 9:31 pm

    Bill – I know absolutely nothing about bowling but have now had a great lesson. I do know what it means to be and have a great and wonderful friend and it sounds to me that you and Robert were well on your way to having it all when his disease cut life short. This posting is a loving tribute to a wonderful man and a sport you fondly remember. Thanks for sharing it with us. Sheri

    • FlaHam

      July 25, 2014 at 4:11 pm

      Sheri, Thank you for you kind words, Robert and I did have the potential to have become great friends, and I do miss him. Soft smile, and now because of the Internet he will live on. Take care, Bill

  7. DeeDee Granata

    July 25, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    Hahaha cultured redneck speaks volumes. Love it.

    • FlaHam

      July 25, 2014 at 4:40 pm

      DeeDee, You really make me smile, thanks for playing along. Take care, Bill

  8. Wanda

    July 26, 2014 at 5:42 am

    It’s obvious you have some wonderful memories of these events, including of your friend Robert.

    I really enjoyed reading your description of the stadium and some of the pomp and circumstance that went along with the competition. It’s hard to imagine 100 lanes in a single venue–and I bet it was deafening during an event.

    • FlaHam

      July 26, 2014 at 2:01 pm

      Wanda, I am fortunate, my life has been indeed filled with wonderful moments and memories. Soft smile, and YOU and Art are in so many of them. LMAO I was not in the least bit prepared to”march” out to my lane listening to the patriotic music thundering through the stadium. Then seeing my name in 2 foot high letters LOL LOL, I choked so big time. But I came back year after year LOL. The National Event was indeed cool to the maximum. Take care, Bill

  9. kanzensakura

    July 26, 2014 at 11:02 pm

    This is truly a treasure. What a role model to follow and of course, you will pass that on.

    • FlaHam

      July 27, 2014 at 7:35 am

      Kanzen, Robert was a great role model, and I am sure I had many of those same traits when we met, and I am sure that is one of the reasons we got along so well. Soft smile, I am doing my best to share and pass it along. Take care, Bill


    August 10, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    Hurrah! Finally I got a website from where I be capable of
    genuinely take useful facts concerning my study and knowledge.

    • FlaHam

      August 10, 2014 at 1:18 pm

      Beth, You recently stopped at my blog and offered a comment. I appreciate your visit, and I hope you get something useful from your future visits. Take care, Bill

  11. benzeknees

    August 13, 2014 at 1:43 am

    I bowled in the YBC (youth bowling conference) when I was a kid. Although I bowled for a couple years but I never really learned how to bowl properly. I remember there was a Mother/Daughter or Father/Son tournament & both my parents bowled, so my mother thought we had a chance – until she saw me bowl.
    When we moved to the middle of the bush in NW Ont., the little town we lived in had 2 (5 pin) bowling lanes. In an effort to meet people hubby & I joined the bowling league. We bowled every year we lived there. My average was 157. When we left Ontario & moved to Alberta, we joined a bowling league (again to meet people). We bowled for 2 years, then I developed BPV (benign positional vertigo) & had difficulty standing because of the dizzy spells & we gave it up.

    • FlaHam

      August 13, 2014 at 10:37 am

      Benze, Bowling has always been fun and even more fun if you with a group of folks that you enjoy. You take that combination and throw in a couple beers and you have a good time. I bowled for years and years and my wife bowled with me for some time as well, we had a great time. And bowling was the last sport I had to give up because of my COPD. My body just wouldn’t allow it. So I understand why you had to stop. It doesn’t make it easier, but I do understand. Take care, be safe, Bill


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