by Fred Eisenhammer
WOODLAND HILLS – Say what you want about all the negatives about league bowling. And there’s plenty to say.
There’s the frequent profanity by bowlers and oftentimes crude gestures. There’s the lack of courtesy with bowlers wandering off when it’s their turn, leaving others to wait annoyingly for their return.
How about the sandbaggers and there’s no shortage of them? But there’s one major positive that overshadows all the negatives. And that’s all the bonds that are created during league play – within one’s own team and often with one’s opponent’s team.
One of the most heartening things to see is the closeness between couples who bowl on the same team – sometimes they’re married and sometimes they’re just a step or two away or it’s just the beginning of a relationship. One of my favorite couples is Mike and Catherine Taniguchi, who have been bowling together in league play for 10 years. They also have been married for 10 years The enthusiasm they have for the game is etched on their faces for the two hours-plus they’re bowling. The fun they have is infectious and it’s difficult not to be rooting for them.
The Taniguchi’s, who met at a wedding, also have a great story. Mike and Catherine started league play in the “Viva Las Vegas” league in 2008 at AMF Woodlake Lanes in Woodland Hills. In their first season, Mike and Catherine bowled on the team that won the summer league title. Then they won the championship the following summer as part of a different team, claiming shiny-new trophies each year.
Catherine, who averages 128, laughs when talking about the twin championships. “That was a miracle,” she says. And she adds: “I landed here in the U.S. in 2008, got married and then the [league titles] were like a gift from God.” Catherine returned to the U.S. in 2008 from Hong Kong, where she was born. She had studied in the U.S. at a Nebraska college in the 1980s.
Mike, who averages 153, modestly calls the couple’s first title “beginner’s luck.” Mike and Catherine are still waiting to bring home their third league title but they know their first two championships represented a magical and memorable time. “When we won in 2009, that hooked us in,” says Mike, who rocketed a career-high 235 game that year. “Ever since 2009, it’s just ‘forget it,’ ’’ he says, laughing.
Mike and Catherine have won over their league colleagues by their charming ways. They often amuse when they try to guide their shots with some unique body and hand motions. “When I see them bowl, I admire their dancing when they watch their ball down the lane,” says “Guys and Dolls” standout Greg Kolski. “They’re fun to watch.” Debbie Prince, who averages 120, talks delightfully about the rapport she has established with Catherine. “She’s so funny,” Prince says. “Whenever I pick up [a strike or spare], she gets all excited for me and claps for me.”
Mike is the leadoff bowler and Catherine follows in the second slot on their league team, which includes Michael Easley, Chris Ivey and Richard Melendrez. The team ranks in the middle of the pack in Winnetka Bowl’s “Guys and Dolls” league standings.
As the first bowler, Mike realizes he sets the tone for his team. “When I mess up, it’s ‘follow the leader,’ ” says Mike with a laugh. “Yuck. But it’s still fun.”
Mike recognizes the bonding that takes place during the course of the night – with his own team and with his wife. Says Mike about bowling with Catherine: “Everything we do together brings us closer together.”