I bowled in leagues weekly for years starting in Middle School and then periodically into my adulthood. But through all that time, the 200 game eluded me. Until today. And it was the most unlikely of 200 games, scaring the hell out of me until the final seconds.
I have to credit the RedShed Crossfit Center for making it even possible. If you've never heard of Crossfit, it's not about building vanity biceps. It's about forging real strength, in the muscles and cardio system. RedShed owners and coaches Pat and Janine Neill have patiently guided me toward the best fitness of my life. I'm used to throwing a 20 pound medicine ball at a ten foot ceiling fifty times. So throwing a bowling ball is sure a bit easier now.
The day had begun with me wishing one of my former students, Kyle, happy birthday via Facebook. Kyle and another student, Adham, were bowlers at my school. And I had always relished their frame-by-frame of any 200 game they threw, so much I longed to ever do so myself. I told Kyle I'd be bowling later that day. And as I told him that, I thought about how I'd love my first 200 game to be on his birthday.
I arrived this morning at the Funland Bowling Center at Piata Unirii in Bucharest, Romania. I'd already bowled here twice since our arrival on July 9. In my first outing, I had bowled two games in the 180 range, which convinced me I was due to finally have that two hundred game. But last week, after doing major back work at our gym here, I pulled something and every time I went to throw the ball, something hurt terribly. My highest game that day was a 157.
First Game of the Day.
Frame 1: 8/
Frame 2: 8/
Frame 3: 62 - Current Score 42
You know this doesn't really look like the makings of a 200 game, does it? I sure didn't believe this was the one.
Frame 4: 9/
Frame 5: 8/
Well, I've certainly proven my ability to make spares, haven't I? I do recall looking up at the screen and thinking to myself, "If this is going to be a 200 game, I need a whole bunch of strikes in a row right now."
Frame 6: Strike
Frame 7: Strike - Now, I have to admit, I did not deserve this particular strike. I barely hit the head pin and a mess ensued in which random pins still stood and then slowly dropped until finally all of them had dropped. Well, I guess this makes up for all the times I thought I hit the pocket perfectly and felt robbed.
Frame 8: Strike
Frame 9: Strike
Tenth Frame. Oh, I was very aware that I had snatched a potential 200 game out of the jaws of mediocrity. And at this point I was just trying not to think too much about it. I knew, in fact, that a strike right now would make my first 200 game a likelihood.
I roll the ball. My heart soars as it lands cleanly, perfectly, exactly into the pocket--the strike zone.
An explosion of pins follows, after which, inexplicably, the seven pin still defiantly stands, as if mocking me.
Look, I can't do long division, so I certainly can't calculate my own bowling score. And the news arrived on the screen. My current score is 198. I can take it from there. I know that it's now come down to this. If I pick up this pin, my score is 199. And then, if I now down so much as one more pin, I have finally achieved my long held dream of a 200 game.
Damn. Despite what you saw in the first five frames, I don't consider myself good at spares. If I were, I probably wouldn't be 46 years old and dreaming of my first 200 game.
I roll the ball. It's kind of heading the right direction. Oh no, it's not going to hit the pin. Or is it? Oh my Sweet Jesus, will it possibly touch that pin?
It barely kisses the pin. Maybe it so much as blows in the ear of that pin as it passes. The pin swoons and then falls over.
The electronic screen shows me the new stark reality. I have 199 and one ball to throw. (My Orthodox name is Andrew, and I'm known as Andrei in Romania, hence the name in the pic.)
If you think I'm happy and relaxed, you're quite wrong. I am perfectly capable of throwing a gutter ball. I hadn't thrown one yet that day, but I had thrown two just one week earlier on this exact same lane.
I pick up the ball. I walk up the lane. I am not trying to throw a strike right now. I am merely trying to not throw a gutter ball. My dear late mother was a terrific bowler. And as I got ready to release the ball, I heard advice she had given me many times over the years, "Shake hands with the head pin."
Off it goes. It's not going to be a gutter ball. In the end, six pins fall. Final score--205.
I let out a shout that probably scared the Romanian bowling lane attendants.
I just stood there basking in the sweet sense of finally achieving this long held dream.
I would bowl two more games, but my heart was not really in them because, after all, I had finally bowled a 200 game. I would bowl a 138, followed by a 105. And then I decided I was done for the day.
I left Piata Unirii with the plan of walking north where my wife Adriana and I would catch a movie together three hours later. On my way, I stopped in at this little Church, where I kissed all the icons, thanked God for this day, and also prayed that my former student Adham be protected. This fine young man is currently in Lebanon visiting family and I pray that no war break out and spill upon him there. (By the way, the Communists purposely built buildings around churches, trying to hide them and kill religion. That's why this thing seems like it's deep in an alley. The Communists failed, the Churches in Romania are full every Sunday.)
With time to kill and still basking in this long held dream, I relaxed at one of my favorite spots, Restaurantul Pescarul, where I ordered a half carafe of red wine, calamari, and cucumber salad. A perfect end to a wonderful day.