Playing Games In The Name Of Sport

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - January 04, 2006

Is golf a game or a sport? I would submit it is both.

In its competitive form, players must walk about 21,000 feet for at least two consecutive days. If the player makes the cut, there is another 42,000 feet. There is the mental game, plus the need for precision each and every swing of the club or you risk losing everything with just one mis-step. Just ask any golfer who hikes several miles over a hot weekend if athletics are involved.

Golf has been maligned by those who consider it an elitest diversion or a game for a bunch of really poorly dressed white men. As with most assumptions, this is dead wrong.

There are other games fighting for the respect golf now enjoys. Some are warranted, some are just silly. I tuned in ESPN2 the other day and saw the game of darts presented as “athletic competition.” C’mon. I can appreciate just about anything being a sport, but darts? Any game that requires a supply of quarters to play pretty much negates athletics. The most physical activity in playing darts is trying to get the shells off boiled peanuts. I know there are league players and I would wager if you were to ask them, the most sweat produced in competition is whether or not their wives know they are playing at Club By Me.

Tune into any Winter Olympics coverage and you will see brave men and women engaged in grueling and arduous competition. Speed skating, downhill slalom and cross country skiing are just a few.

But curling? This rambunctious “sport” is nothing more than slippery housecleaning. The premise of the game is shuffleboard on ice. A player skids a “stone” down the ice and the proceeds to sweep the ice to facilitate its path and speed. I can’t imagine any activity that boasts tidying up could be taken seriously as a sport. But, sure enough, these guys and gals stand at the podium during the medal ceremony side-by-side with hockey players missing hair, teeth and other body parts. What is a curler’s training regimen, sweeping shopping centers? Do they order competition grade brooms or simply go to Lowe’s and buy off the shelf? I can’t wait for the performance-enhancing drug scandal to hit curling. I would dare say two cups of coffee qualify.

Bowling. Here we go. I know just about none of you are curlers, but a lot of you are bowlers. Before you go sharpening your balls, hear me out.

I like bowling. I played in leagues when I was a kid and got to be decent. Not great, but I kept it out of the gutter. After three games of hurling a 16-pound ball down the lane, you can feel like you did something. In curling, all you have done is prettied up the ice.

But let’s face it. Bowling may be fun, but nobody is going to consider it an actual sport as opposed to a game, right? You are sadly mistaken, Grasshopper.

In the world of high school sport, bowling is growing fastest. In 2004-05, bowling boasted the most gains in the number of players and schools signing up. Now, football is still king with boys with about 1 million players, and basketball is for girls with almost 500,000. Bowling sees about 40,000 boys and girls competing. Although the number may be comparatively low, there are now 16 states that recognize bowling as a varsity sport. Whodathunk?

We have lost so many lanes here in Hawaii. The Bowl-ADrome on Isenberg is still missed. Bernadette and I tried out Kahala Lanes a while back and had a blast. Bowling is repositioning itself as centers instead of alleys. Gone are the dark, dank and spare (pun intended, thank you) facilities. Now it’s all about laser lights, glow-in-the-dark balls and loud rock music. Bowling associations are supplying schools with roll-up lanes with plastic pins to promote the game to youngsters. At least the game is making the effort to be relevant.

So, the next time you see a french fry-grinding, beer-swilling, tatooed, tobacco-chewing bowler at your local lanes, rest assured the old guard is on the way out and the new generation is here. You may see the OIA and ILH square off in the ultimate championship game. That’s right. The Bowling Bowl.

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