Goodman Shaffer: Bowling season rolls on with unique alley culture

Fall sports are barreling through playoff time and winter sports are just getting started, but for thousands of competitors around our region, this is the midst of bowling season.

Peek into area bowling lanes almost any evening, and you’ll find some kind of activity: teams of all ages gathered around tables, swiveling in their chairs, checking scorecards and catching up on the week’s news. You can tell that some teams have been doing this together for years, even decades.

With all the talk of locker room culture of late, the atmosphere of league bowling offers a stark contrast from the tough world of professional sports. The experience of league bowling goes far beyond the scores and standings found in the newspaper; the culture is one of community. This week at the bowling alley, it’s someone’s birthday, so everyone has cake. Someone’s mother is in the hospital, so everyone signs the get-well card.

Camaraderie trumps rivalries; it is not uncommon to see high-fives for an opponent after a strike or a “good job” when someone on the next lane picks up a tough spare.

Bowling is a sport that almost anyone can take part in; there are no age limits, aerobic challenges or heavy lifting. It’s truly an activity for life. But that doesn’t make it easy; it definitely requires skill and practice to be successful in league bowling. Handicaps are the great equalizer, so on any given night, you’re not really bowling against another team, you’re simply bowling in an effort to better yourself. That said, frustration arises not from winning or losing against another team, but from inconsistency in your own game. But like golf, one good night, or even one good pitch is enough to keep you coming back for more.

Men’s, women’s mixed and youth leagues last throughout the fall and winter months, starting just after Labor Day and ending close to Easter. For some, it’s something to fill the foul weather void between golf seasons. For others, it’s a chance to get together each week with teammates and friends and enjoy the activity and fellowship found on the lanes.

Sandy Hansell & Associates is a company of nationally-renowned brokers, appraisers, & financial advisors who specialize in bowling facilities. The company sites a four-year trend of increasing involvement in the sport of bowling throughout the U.S. due to improving facilities and added entertainment options. We see those features in local lanes with rock-n-roll nights, holiday promotions and many tournaments, as well as charity and fundraising events.

So while it’s fun to spend a random Saturday night bowling with friends or family, or to take the kids to a bowling birthday party, league bowling is a whole other animal.

It’s commitment, challenge and competition balanced with flexibility, fellowship and fun; and a unique sport experience if you have one night a week to spare.

Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at Her column appears on Tuesdays.