Bowling for Jesus?

Today's Chautauqua is about follow-through.

When I was young, I belonged to a Saturday bowling league. Our team had half a dozen kids, all aged about 8 years or so. Every Saturday, all teams paired off and competed for dominance and advancement up the league roster. The contest took 2 hours -- which is to say, about 15 minutes of bowling sprinkled within 1 hour and 45 minutes of hijinks. Bowling is mostly just killing time while others bowl. Between turns, we often caused trouble. My favorite bit of mischief was producing the sound of flatulence by compressing my hands over the air hand drier. Also, projecting a larger-than-life silhouette of your middle finger onto the overhead score card was an entertaining diversion. Eff you, Brunswick! "Accidentally" timing your ball to collide with the pin-setter mechanism had to be done sparingly, lest management intervene, but it was a sure crowd-pleaser if one could pull it off. I found an off-speed 12 lb. ball produced a pleasant, resonating tone as it struck the metal pin sweeper, something the whole bowling alley could enjoy. Other kids opted for a maximum velocity 8-pounder. I found this practice cheap, second-rate and anything but subtle. Vandalizing bowling equipment is a fine art.

I wasn't the best bowler on my team. The truth is, I sucked. I ranked above only one other bowler on my team, and I believe he was mildly retarded. Bowling frustrated me. It looks deceitfully easy. I would peer down the glossy strip of wood paneling at the 10 helpless pins and ask myself, How hard can this be? Roll the ball straight down the lane and clobber them? It's not like the pins can dodge the ball or put up a fight. Hell, hitting the head pin should be easier than pegging the fat girl in a game of dodgeball.

Nevertheless, I earned the name "Gutter Ball." My average hovered well below 100 (a respectable goal for a kid bowler). My frequent gutter balls were a source of embarrassment. Nothing infuriated me like watching my ball slip into the gutter and skid and shimmy down the alley, unless, of course, it collided with the 5,000 dollar pin-setter, in which case it was a riot. Still, my crappy bowling drew much ridicule from the other kids. And I wasn't improving. I was handicapping my team.

My mom drove me to league bowling and occasionally stayed to watch. She was a good bowler in her day. And I would enjoy the good fortune of her counsel. One day she watched me stink up the lane with gutter balls and crappy shots that claimed only a few pins per frame. Then she resolved to teach me the importance of follow-through. Hitherto, I saw my mom as a nuisance. Moms aren't that cool to 8 year old boys. Even those liberated moms who buy the kids beer and make drunken sexual advances at them aren't cool until about the age of 14. Before the onset of adolescence, boys leave their moms with very few options for achieving coolness. So it was with my mom and me at the bowling alley. Ideally, my mom would remain quiet, anonymous, and watch my game from the back of the alley, presenting herself only long enough to provide cash for the vending machines and cafeteria.

On this day, she violated the rules. She was seated right behind the ball return, keeping score. As I tossed another stinker down the lane, she’d shout, "Follow through, Richie. Follow through!"

What? What did she mean, "follow through?" I couldn't even roll the damn ball in a straight line and hit a few miserable pins. I wasn't in the mood for vague instructions. I was embarrassed enough already. Shut up, mom.

Then she committed blasphemy. As my bowling buddies watched, she escorted me up to the line, stood behind me, took me by the waist and wrist and reduced me to a bowling puppet. I sensed an ass-kicking from the fellas pending! Already fuming from a dozen frames of dismal bowling, I scoffed through the lesson. But as she guided my wrist straight upward after the release, I finally understood what she meant by "follow-through." I just didn't see the merit in it yet.

I retorted: It doesn't matter what the hell I do after I release the ball. The shot is already done. After releasing the ball, I could dance an Irish jig while reciting dirty limericks and the ball wouldn't give a damn. It already has its trajectory. It's deaf to all entreaties (I didn't say those exact words, but that was the substance of it). I argued that it couldn't possibly matter what I do after I release the ball.

She contradicted me: From a physical standpoint, you're right. Once you release the ball, it acts according to Newtonian physics. But alas, what you plan doing after your release affects what you do before the release. And this has a great deal of bearing on your bowling game. Herein lies the value of follow-through (these weren‘t her exact words, but that was the gist).

I was desperate. I took her advice. The results were instantaneous. Following through on my bowling stroke, I produced a series of dead-on, straight shots. I was knocking down pins. No more gutter balls! What's more, I was striking the pins near the pocket. With an occasional spare or strike, I could reach the 100-point mark. Wow, Mom knew something useful after all. Thanks, Mom. Now get the hell out of here. You’re embarrassing me. Go buy me some candy or a dirty magazine or something.

I wonder if religious faith is a sophisticated kind of follow-through. Religion, especially Christianity, is the subject of ridicule and scorn. The argument against religion is, it's not scientific. It doesn't stand the test of reason. Its tenets cannot be verified through experiment. It's blind faith! (How refreshing it would be to see these arguments aimed squarely at yoga!) People with religious convictions are often perceived as rubes (or worse, potential criminals). Those with rational, scientific minds, the independent thinkers (read: smarter), often hold religion in contempt. Churches are chocked full of simpletons.

It’s true. Religion doesn't withstand the rigors of scientific investigation. But neither does a proper bowling stroke, or golf swing, or a free-throw shot. Science dictates that the projectiles in these sports follow the laws of Newtonian physics. But we can demonstrate statistically -- through scientific experiment -- that proper follow-through and form improve performance. There's more to it than mere science! Many unscientific practices yield results: Public speakers give better speeches by imagining the audience in their underwear. Marathon runners imagine their bodies floating in frictionless cylinders. Impoverished entrepreneurs imagine the millions are already in the bank. Singers imagine singing above an imaginary pencil clenched in their teeth. Everyone's familiar with the success philosophy, Act as if -- a practice that has you actively ignoring the facts around you and make-believing success. Are all these people dupes, simpletons, fools, Fox News fans?

While the dogma of whatever religion may not be true (Did human life begin with Adam and Eve? Did God really flood the earth? Did Christ turn water to wine? Did that Gazoo fella really appear before Fred Flintstone when he and Barney were in a quandary?) the virtues of religion are realistic. They can be proved, observed. Who doesn't behave a little better when he remembers God is watching him? I recently thumbed through my 4 high school yearbooks and read the entries of the Twenty Most Likely to Succeed students. The majority of these students (80 in all) cited their faith in God or Jesus Christ as the impetus for their success. And I thought they were just nerds and Jesus freaks!

Just like follow-through is important in bowling or golf, so might focus on the afterlife improve one's motions through this life. Was it just a statistical anomaly that the majority of those 80 students cited God, or that religious people as a whole tend to be decent, happy and successful? Or are religious fables packaged with useful life lessons. A lot of religious people, I'll suspect, intuit their religious faith is allegory. Pinned down by debate or interrogation about the existence of God, religious people may reveal their doubts. They may find it hard to fathom the stories of Moses marching down the mountain with Ten Commandments, or the Burning Bush, or Christ rising from the dead, or God keeping a ledger of good and evil deeds. But they choose to believe them because these allegories reinforce virtues; believing helps lead a better life.

Maybe this is why so many athletes are religious. If my livelihood depended on rolling a strike, hitting a little white ball moving 96 mph or pole-vaulting 22 feet in the air, I'd kiss the little gold cross around my neck beforehand, too.


Sassy Blondie said...

LBB-I think I like this chautauqua the best so far. Who knew bowling could be a metaphor for believing?

And I am a firm believer in that bowling is the only "sport" where you don't have to be good at it to have fun with it. Now go thank your mom!

Enemy of the Republic said...

This is a good post and I want to come back and write more, but it's bedtime soon. One thing about the athletes: I always wondered why both teams prayed--God couldn't give the victory to Boston and Colorado. In that sense, sports reminds me of war--both sides believe God is on their side, when God may actually be reading a book.

I once bowled a ten. Now that sucks.

Ari said...

The end of this chatauqua could in no wise be predicted from the beginning... which I cherish and adore. I could just see the pumpkin orange and harvest gold shag carpeted walls of the kidhood-era bowling alley you were describing.

I took a bowling class as a P.E. credit in college, 'cause I'm just that physically lame. I'm not an accomplished bowler, but I enjoy it still. Overall, my best day bowling was slamming several strikes on a school field trip last year. Lo, how the 8 year olds chanted my name!!

Anonymous said...

Goodness, you are very wise dude. But compared to your previous entries, this one was so solemn, I thought the ending was going to be something terrible like your mom had passed away (no disrespect!).

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Stacy The Peanut Queen said...

Hell, I'm in my *ahem* mid-to-late thirties and I consider it a great night if I break 100 on bowling night. I suck at it. And as far as that "follow thru" thing? Sure it looks good on paper but when I try to do that fancy-schmancy footwork where you throw one foot behind the other and do that little 1/4 bow thing as you release the ball? Each and every time, I almost kick one foot out from underneath me with the other foot.

At least it's good for a laugh every time. ;)

NWJR said...

"Impoverished entrepreneurs imagine the millions are already in the bank."

How did you get your hands on my business plan?

Jenny said...

I had such a snarky comment set up in the beginning of this post but I got so sucked into the bottom part that I forgot it.

But it was f-ing brilliant, trust me.

Erin O'Brien said...


I guess this means I'm really in trouble.

And since it's Halloween, here are a trio of weirdo movies for you.

Happy Halloween and it's nice to meet you have a good day and be cool.

Erin O'Brien

~gkw said...

I absolutely loved this post... I have nothing better to say...

Paul said...

WOW. How did we get from bowling to belief in the afterlife?

All I can remember about Saturday morning bowling league (yes, my Mom dropped me off there ever week, too) is that the bowling alley had a lounge which was off-limits to kids. It was behind a frosted-glass door. We were fascinated by what we though went on in there. Whenever someone opened the door we would try to get a quick glimpse -- only to confronted by the smell of smoke and stale beer. I don't think they were practicing much religion in there.

Anonymous said...

I'm so stunned I forgot what I was going to say.

Doesn't happen to me too often.LOL

Jack K. said...

Not being a student of the bible, and being too lazy to go back and read Genesis, I will make the following observations.

If God did indeed create Adam and Eve as the first humans, how did the rest of us come forth? It seems as though this is the groundwork for incest.

If this is so, then modern day Christians really confuse me when they rail on about sexual practices. It is all very confusing at times.

You can draw your own conclusions.

Good post, LBB.

BottleBlonde said...

Jack K., your suspicions are correct. We Christians do want to make sure you die sexless and blue-balled. >:-)

LBB, this post makes my loins tingle. It's refreshing to see someone extol the virtues of religion rather than browbeat it.

Though religion certainly has its faults as you implied, it also has its benefits: bread and wine, baby!

Samantha_K said...

Wow. You're so smart.

Keep the faith through all things.

That's just one of my many mottos.

The others would be inappropriate posted here, lol.

qofd said...

I'm a practicing Catholic (converted as an adult, my parents brought us up with zero religion) with a brother who is an archaeologist. I hear the "you're just a simpleton who needs a crutch" ad nauseum, although in a very sweet-mannered and passive aggresive way.

So it's nice to read something favorable about religion. ;)

Oh great One said...

Thank you LBB! I'm so tired of hearing how stupid I am for believing. There are plenty of things that I have a hard time wrapping my mind around in the bible believe me. The thing is that faith is believing without proof.

You are brilliant my man!

Lyvvie said...

I used to get dragged around to watch my brother bowl. The only good bit was the few quarters I as given to play Tempest or Pac-Man. I loved video games circa 1983, and the bowling alley was the best place to find them: no queues.

Mo said...

Fantastic, really.

I come from a long and proud history of bowlers/alcoholics (they're pretty much the same) and every time we got a strike we'd thank the good Lord above. Because really, God is just as much of a fan of bowling as the rest of us.

Memphis Steve said...

Whenever I'm in church, I ask myself, What Would Jesus Do?

And whenever I'm in the grocery story and some fuckwit gives me a hard time, I ask myself "What Would Sara Silverman Do?" And then I slam them with style!

I think God has a sense of humor. I think he gave us Sara Silverman for a reason. I think we should honor that each and every day.

ZenDenizen said...

Great analogy. Bowling is actually the only sport I'm good at, oh the embarrassment.

Chunks said...

In Canada, we don't bowl, we curl. Actually we do, I'm just hacking on ya! Get it? Hack? A curling term. Whatever.

Nice post. I'm not religious but I am spiritual and believe that karma will kick your ass if you invite it.

Your mom called you Richie? Like Richie Cunningham? Richie Rich? That's funny to me!

tornwordo said...

That's as useful a way to think about God as I've heard. Nice! I was squirming for you when your mom puppeted you in front of your gang.

Loving Annie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Loving Annie said...

Happy Halloween to you, Rich !

Belief is second only to hard cold cash in the bank.

Your Mom was right, and so is your analogy.

We don't do things in a vacuum - how we do what we do when we do it and what `we do afterwards all add up to either our sucessess or repeat attempts at getting whatever it is right...
God willing - or a.w.o.l. - depending on if your prayers were answered or not :)

p.s. to answer the question you left on my blog, I absconded to Pebble Beach, CA. for a week to avoid the forest fires/smoke - only to be hit with the San Jose earthquake last night :)
You win some, you lose some, others are a draw...

Have a good week !

Loving Annie

Weary Hag said...

Not into bowling or any structured religion in particular, yet this post ... why, I couldn't look away.

Nicely written. No particular segue, yet everyone seemed to get your message. Whatta Bug!

Stepping Over the Junk said...

this is slightly different than my childhood stories of bowling at Pico Lanes in Santa Monica, with my grandfather on Saturday mornings.

Chick said...

I'm still giggling at the retarded kid who stunk worse than you at bowling (please God, don't strike me down for saying that).

CP said...

"As my bowling buddies watched, she escorted me up to the line, stood behind me, took me by the waist and wrist and reduced me to a bowling puppet."




Cynic with Flair said...

There's a lot to be said for faith. Follow-through seems to be a metaphor for faith. No, you can't quantify an individual's religious beliefs. That's why I find it ironic that while Christians say they walk by faith, the are opposed to the paranormal, and any semblance of gray area. The Christians I know say it's all black and white - that the Bible is to be taken literally. This, to me, has never made any sense - there are so many paranormal and inexplicable events in the Bible, not to mention the notion of intangible faith - that it would make sense that a Christian would be the first to acknowledge that it's impossible to measure the scientific validity of any religious belief. Yet, this isn't the case.

I get what you are saying. I just wish the rest of the Christian population would get it too.

phishez_rule said...

I'm not very good at bowling. I can have the gutter guards set up, and I can still miss all the pins. TWICE.
In a row. TWO TIMES.

Beth said...

Oh Mom!! No she didn't come up behind you and show you how to do it? AYE! Did you get your ass kicked?

Honest John said...

Skimming through the comments I'm really sorry I couldn't stay awake to read the entire post. I tried several times but it just ain't happening. I need one liners of brilliance. This whole thinking and following along stuff is tough for a moron like me. Anyway, so as not to force another spectacular post about a comment written by a loser in his mother's basement beating off to Star Trek women posters, overcome with jealousy over an unpublished blogging genius, I'll just say...truly magnificent. Bowling and the afterlife. I never in a million years could have made that connection. There should be a statue of you somewhere!

Midas said...

LOL. I love the title.

Does religion really matters though? And have you noticed that it's always about Jesus? So, what about God? Shouldn't he be the one we ask for help?

Anonymous said...

"Hell, hitting the head pin should be easier than pegging the fat girl in a game of dodgeball."

Why did it have to be a fat GIRL?

no, seriously, good post. A little whacky but good points. I don't know if I agree with all of it, but I like that you got people thinking, and you didn't bash the beliefs. I respect you for that.

to cynic with flair- maybe they try to be faithful, but just aren't that good at it... thus giving them a hard head about things outside of the box? I dunno.

snowelf said...

This really is a clever post, Lbb.
I think the follow through is important in all areas of life, because everything we do has consequences.


Amandarama said...

I suck at bowling. But I'm great at follow through. Go figure.

OldHorsetailSnake said...

I don't know of any performance of mine that would be enhanced by believing Christ rose from the tomb alive. But, what the heck, if it helps you pole vault 39 feet, go for it.

OldHorsetailSnake said...

I don't know of any performance of mine that would be enhanced by believing Christ rose from the tomb alive. But, what the heck, if it helps you pole vault 39 feet, go for it.

Superstar said...

Religion relies on Simplton's not willing to follow thru...They are too busy living in fear of damnation and dreaming of acolates...then again, they could just be on drugs...as they see angles. Who might or might not be, a halluciination...:)

I am not sure, but I got the idea, that your Mom might have been talkin' about sportsmanship.

Little Wing said...

I suck at bowling, so I don't.
But I can sure follow thru.
Great post as usual LBB, you rock!

someoneswife said...

Great post, who would have thought bowling and faith??? I have never been very good at either one...Oh, I believe in God, I just have a tendency to get upset with Him from time to time. Good thing He is all-forgiving, huh? Unlike myself who is irritated as hell that the "Honest John" guy is heckling you while staying in hiding. What a pussy! So to "Honest John", let's see how shit hot your writing is my friend...I would be willing to bet that you couldn't come close to competing with the wit, intelligence, and sensitivity that I read here on LBB's page. So how about it, share your brilliance with us "John", impress me!....Oh and Hugs to LBB, Dawn

Becky said...

I am a bowler of much experience and I still suck. I like the way you phrased it, it looks deceitfully easy! So true! I never get above 150 and I bowl at least once a week for at least a year or two now.

Raggedy said...

Fabulous post!
Have a wonderful day!
(=':'=) huggles
(")_ (")Š from
the Cool Raggedy one

ribbiticus said...

hmmm...i think it was absolutely brilliant how you got from talking about bowling and segued smoothly into religion. great post! i believe i will be coming by more often. ;)

IDigHootchAndCootch said...

this has been my favorite chautauqua, so far. If you ever take your philosophy of the "follow through" on the road to hold seminars, or something, I'm there.


Honest John said...

...to someoneswife...how do you know you don't already read my blog and tell me how wonderful I am?

someoneswife said...

Honest John,
I read seven blogs regularly (It would be eight but Caleb's page won't open for me anymore) I find it hard to believe that out of all the blogs on the net, yours is one of those seven. So fess up, who are you? And where is your blog? Dawn

The Thinking Man's Babe said...

Science has not caught up. That's all. We don't know what we don't know. Trust and faith are incredibly powerful.

MONA said...

I am breathless! :)

Seriously. I love this post. It is well written & I like the anomaly.

Yes to believe is to be focused. When you know the goals, you have to follow the path that leads to them.

Miss Cellania said...

Great post. When you look beyond the headlines and the blogs, you'll be surprised to find a great number of Christians who are neither simpletons nor literalists.