It is hard to explain how much better candlepin bowling is than regular ten pin bowling, but I will try. Now that I have bowled candlepin, I want to do bad things to my ten pin bowling ball. That's right, I have my own ten pin bowling ball. Sixteen pounds. I even have my own shoes. And I HATE ten pin bowling. I gave it the "college try." Went Monday night with some buddies. Drank beer. Rolled the ball. Tried to learn to hook it into the pocket. Hurt my wrist. Drank more beer.
But now I want to chuck my ball out of a moving car. I want to hit it with a wrecking bar. I want to hurt it. Sodomize it. Fill the holes with cement and toss it off the Donald Goodkind Bridge.
Now that I have experienced the thrill and convenience of candlepin bowling, I hereby swear -- with Gheorghe as my witness -- that I will NEVER ten pin bowl again. NEVER! I might drink beer in a ten pin alley while my friends bowl, but never again will I stick my sweaty fingers into one of those giant ten pin balls and try to spin it down the lane. Instead, I will sit back, quaffing my lager, and expound upon the merits of candlepin bowling, until my friend's either kick the shit out of me, or convert to my frame of mind. Frame of mind. (There is the problem that there are no candlepin bowling alleys in New Jersey, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it).
For those of you who have never candlepin bowled, let me try to explain what makes it so great. And don't get me wrong: it's not THE greatest thing. I'd still rather play soccer or darts. It's just that it is so much greater than regular bowling. Here are some reasons why:
1. Everyone uses the same ball. It looks and feels like a bocce ball. There are loads of them, and they are interchangeable. You can't even tell the difference between them. There's none of that interminable walking around the lane, trying to find a ball that fits your fingers. And there's no advantage to bringing your own ball. So there's none of this business:
2. No finger-holes to worry about. I sweat a lot, and I have a thick thumb. This is a dangerous combination: I'm either worried about getting my thumb stuck in the ball or losing my grip completely. And I hate holding my hand over that little air-vent.
3. After you bowl, you don't have to wait for your ball to return. Just grab another one from the rack and chuck it! This is great for my ADD.
4. You get three tries. Three is the magic number of jokes and darts and Star Wars trilogies. Two is not enough. Five is right out. The number of the counting shall be three. That's three, sir.
And you bowl two frames at once. So you get six rolls on your turn, which is enough to get a feel for things. Two rolls and then your turn is over? That's just stupid. The number of the counting shall be three.
5. No ball weights to worry about. I own a sixteen-pound bowling ball, because I'm a real man. I used to bowl with it on Monday nights. Tuesday mornings, my elbow always hurt, because not only was I a real man, but I was also a real idiot. If I used a lighter ball, I probably could have been a decent bowler, but I wasn't going to sacrifice my machismo for skill. Candlepin bowling removes the testosterone factor.
6. The fallen pins aren't cleaned from the lane. They just lie there, and you can use them to knock down the other pins. Sometimes, the best thing to do is roll a gutter ball, because it will hit a dead pin and consequently knock down a corner pin (I'm not sure about the legality of this move, but it works like gangbusters).
7. Three, count them three foul lines! One foul line is lame. Two lines aren't quite enough. Four foul lines would be ridiculous. Five . . . right out. But three foul lines is perfect. There's a foot fault line, of course. Then there's the lob line, ten feet out -- so you have to roll the ball, not hurl it softball style. And finally, there's the fantastically named Dead Wood Line . . . if a pin rolls two feet forward of the head pin, you can't knock it into the other pins with the ball, but if it's "live wood" then you can use it to knock down the remaining pins.
8. Candlepin bowling is impossible. The highest score EVER recorded is 245. If you can bowl over one hundred, that's a good game. No one has ever bowled a perfect three-hundred. So every time you head out to candlepin bowl, you might set the record.
I, for one, am sick of hearing about people who have bowled a three-hundred game (unless, of course, it's Homer Simpson. You can do it Otto! You can do it Otto! Make this spare and I'll buy you free gelato!)
I've had several students do it, and a good friend of mine. It's annoying. What's left once you bowl three hundred? Nothing. You might as well off yourself, because you've achieved perfection. The rest of your life will be a complete let-down. An exercise in futility and disappointment. But if you're a candlepin bowler, there's always something to shoot for . . . two forty-six, baby, two forty-six.
9. Kids are just as bad as adults at it. Among the five of us who bowled yesterday, my nine year old son Alex had the only strike. He followed it with a "one." I was the only person to get a spare. I followed it with a gutter ball. Men, women, children, cripples, the blind . . . everyone sucks at candlepin bowling.
10. Even though you'll suck at it, the motion is smooth and easy. It's essentially like pitching a softball. And who doesn't love a softball pitcher?
I'll leave the 26, 990 other reasons for another post, but follow my advice: get in the car and drive to Cape Cod, toss your ten-pin bowling ball into the Nantucket Sound, and give candlepin bowling a whirl. I promise you'll never go back. And if you ever catch me in a ten pin bowling alley, drop a sixteen pound bowling ball on my testicles and remind me of my promise: that I will never roll a ten pin ball again, as long as I live.
P.S. I'd love to open a candlepin alley in New Jersey. I am guessing once you read this post, you'll be willing to financially back me. Who is in?