Monday, January 31, 2011

Super Bowl

Are you ready for some... bowling? Sure there's a football game on Sunday evening, but I'll have to catch the recap on SportsCenter. I'll be in Reno for the USBC Masters of Bowling which kicks off on Super Bowl Sunday (get it?), and runs for the entire week, culminating in the championship match the following Sunday. That's right, a full week of the best professional rollers on the PBA tour - along with some great pro-am and amateur events mixed in - with a top prize of $50,000.

Hey did you know that bowling dates back over 3,000 years, and maybe even further? That's right, it is thought by some to be - in one form or another - the oldest continuous sporting pastime of human kind. Although "kill the guy with the sheep's stomach" and all of the other pro-football variants can probably make a similar claim. Nonetheless, ten-pin bowling is presently enjoyed by over 100 million people in more than 90 countries, making it far and away the most popular form of recreation on the planet.

But it took a long time for the ten-pin, wooden alley form we recognize today to take its present form. In fact, for most of its colorful history, bowling games were outdoor affairs where the bowler threw the ball at the pins (or other objects), and involved far fewer targets. Italian bocce, French petanque, and English lawn bowling are all early forms of the game, none of which involved ten pins or an alley. Even in the U.S., nine-pin lawn bowling was the norm for almost two centuries. "Bowling Green" in lower Manhattan is presently a small urban plot, but is thought to be the site of America's first lawn bowling green. By the late 1890s, the indoor, ten-pin variety we know came to dominate. One very strange exception still exists in Edinburgh, Scotland. There, the bowler swings a fingerless ball between his legs, before hurling it down a lane, culminating in a flop upon his stomach. I am pretty sure there was a fair amount of whiskey involved in the evolution of the "Edinburgh Flop," but it sounds fun enough.

This year's championship event is being held in the National Bowling Stadium in "The Biggest Little City in the World": Reno, NV. Reno is the birthplace of legalized gambling in the U.S. with the original Harrah's Entertainment opening a bingo parlor in 1931. It also enjoyed a brief period as the "divorce capital" of the U.S., with some of the most liberal divorce laws in the land. In fact "I'm going to Reno" was for a time synonymous with "I'm getting a divorce". But times have changed and Reno now sports all of the gaming and entertainment options one normally associates with Las Vegas or Atlantic City, but at a much smaller scale. Plus, it is in close proximity to both Lake Tahoe and world-class skiing. Did I mention the bowling? Both Club Lakeridge and Plaza Resort Club get high marks from RedWeek members, and right now you can get a 2 bedroom/2 bathroom timeshare rental a Lakeridge for $136/night. It's just four miles from the stadium, and I will be using it as my base throughout the tourney.

Well, I am off to visit Sierra Sid's Casino/Truck Stop in nearby Sparks, NV. Sid's has a reputation for being an indigestion inducing hell-hole, and a sorry excuse for a casino (a handful of slots in a back room). But it is world famous for The Guns of Elvis. That's right, they have the largest collection of firearms previously owned by the King himself. Along with rings and jewelry owned by Elvis, Sid has guns owned by John Wayne, and even a pair of Roy Rogers's spurs. But the item I have my sights set on is the pistol Elvis purportedly used to famously blast his television set, rather than get up and turn the damn thing off. Man, you don't know how many times I've wanted to do that. Fortunately I don't have the kind of money Elvis did, and have taken to keeping a nerf football next to my Lazy-Boy, to satisfy such impulses. It's a good thing for Betty White I won't be watching this year's game.

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