A Plea for Some Civility

by Fred Eisenhammer

LOS ANGELES – It’s been said over and over in this newspaper.

Bowlers are a breed apart when it comes to being passionate about their game.  No sport has athletes who are as equally passionate as bowlers.

Of course, there are golfers and tennis players and other athletes who may dispute that opinion and they can be pretty vehement.  But this is a bowling column, so I plead perhaps a touch of bias when affirming that bowlers often sport more than a full tank of emotion when it comes to their activity.

Theo Sojourn’s often-chronicled story is a perfect example.  He broke two bones in his right forearm in a snow-boarding accident, but that didn’t stop this right-handed bowler from abandoning the game that he had just taken up.

Sojourn simply shifted to rolling the ball left-handed, which resulted in several woeful double-digit scores at Brunswick Matador Bowl in Northridge.  Then Sojourn put his game in high gear and he crushed an electrifying and career-best 240 only six weeks after converting to his “off” hand.

Sojourn’s tale is just one example of hundreds that illustrate bowlers’ passion.

Unfortunately, that passion can be misplaced.   Los Angeles league bowlers, by anecdotal accounts, have shown this emotion recently with some not-so-nice confrontations and heated words. And yes, there have been fights between members of opposing teams.

Hey, this is bowling, remember?

This is a gentleman’s game.

And a gentlewoman’s game.

This is an activity where we’re supposed to have fun.

But the fact is this:  League bowlers are competitive, and some are very competitive and some are very, very competitive.  And there’s some money to be made by having a winning team and defeating opponents on a weekly basis.

And oftentimes bowlers allege that other teams are slipping in “ringers” and throwing off the handicap balance during key matches.

Are ringers really used from time to time?  No doubt.

Should it be an issue?

Well, some bowlers believe it should.  And that’s too bad.

As ace bowler Karl Kurtz notes: League payoffs “won’t put you in a different tax bracket.”

Other cities have more stringent rules than L.A. bowling centers when it comes to using substitutes who may be ringers.

It’s actually quite easy to vote in some “ringer rules” during league meetings before the season begins.

And if that makes people happier, sure, go ahead and tighten the rules.

In the meantime, have some fun.  And congratulate your opponents when they make great shots.

There’s something special about being gracious and showing class.  It makes people winners whether they have the high score or not.

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