jump to navigation

The history of bowling December 4, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Sports.
comments closed

Bowling has a long and rich history, and today is one of the most popular sports in the world. In the 1930s, British anthropologist, Sir Flinders Petrie, discovered a collection of objects in a child’s grave in Egypt that appeared to be used for a crude form of bowling. If he was correct, then bowling traces its ancestry to 3200 BC.

A German historian, William Pehle, asserted that bowling began in his country about 300AD. There is substantial evidence that a form of bowling was in vogue in England in 1366, when King Edward III allegedly outlawed it to keep his troops focused on archery practice. And it is almost certain that bowling was popular during the reign of Henry VIII.
By this time, too, there were many variations of ‘pin’ games, and also of games where a ball was thrown at objects other than pins. This would seem to imply that the games had developed over time, from an earlier period.

One of the most eccentric games is still found in Edinburgh. The player swings a fingerless ball between his legs and heaves it at the pins. In doing so, he flops onto the lane on his stomach. There were and still are many variations of ninepins in Western Europe. Likely related are the Italian bocce, the French petanque, and British lawn bowling.

Undoubtedly, the English, Dutch and German settlers all imported their own variations of bowling to America. The earliest mention of it in serious American literature is by Washington Irving, when Rip Van Winkle awakens to the sound of “crashing ninepins”. The first permanent American bowling location probably was for lawn bowling, in New York’s Battery area. Now the heart of the financial district, New Yorkers still call the small plot Bowling Green.

The game had its ups and downs in America. An 1841 Connecticut law made it illegal to maintain “any ninepin lanes”, probably because bowling was the object of much gambling. But the problem, of course, also evidenced its popularity. Also, many captains of industry chose to install a lane in their mansions.

While it is uncertain where the tenpin game evolved, by the late 1800s it was prevalent in many states. However, details like ball weights and pin dimensions varied by region. But that changed when restauranteur Joe Thum finally pulled together representatives of the various regional bowling clubs. On September 9, 1895, at Beethoven Hall in New York City, the American Bowling Congress was born. Soon standardisation would be established, and major national competitions could be held.

While women had been bowling in the latter half of the nineteenth century, the American Bowling Congress was for men. It was in 1917 that the Women’s International Bowling Congress was born in St. Louis. Encouraged by proprietor Dennis Sweeney, women leaders from around the country participating in a tournament decided to form what was then called the Women’s National Bowling Association.

Bowling technology took a big step forward about the same time. Balls used to be primarily lignum vitae, a very hard wood. But in 1905 the first rubber ball, the Evertrue was introduced, and in 1914 the Brunswick Corporation successfully promoted the Mineralite ball, touting its “mysterious rubber compound”.

Now organised, with agreed upon standards, the game grew in popularity. In 1951 another technological breakthrough set the stage for massive growth. American Machine and Foundry Company (AMF, then a maker of machinery for the bakery, tobacco and apparel businesses) purchased the patents to Gottfried Schmidt’s automatic pinspotter, and by late 1952 production model pinspotters were introduced. No longer did a proprietor have to rely on pinboys.

Television embraced bowling in the 1950s, and the game’s popularity grew exponentially. NBC’s broadcast of “Championship Bowling” was the first network coverage of bowling.
Today, the sport of bowling is enjoyed by 95 million people in more than 90 countries worldwide. Under the auspices of the Federation Nationale des Quilleurs (FIQ) bowling’s top athletes regularly compete in Olympic Zone and worldwide competitions.


The ‘Bobby’ factor December 4, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Movies.
comments closed

Is Bobby Kennedy a martyred hero? A noble leader whose vision and eloquence inspire us even today, almost four decades after his death?

If the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, D-N.Y., embodies all those great attributes, as argued in the new Hollywood film “Bobby,” that’s good news for Democrats today, including the Democrat who sits in his Senate seat, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Because in politics, those who control the past and the way it’s remembered have a way of controlling the present and the future. If a contemporary politician, no matter how ordinary, can successfully associate himself or herself with a political golden age, it’s a huge plus for the next election.

But “golden ages” don’t come about by accident. They come about through conscious effort, as historians and dramatists come together to remember and re-create the past, that is, as they choose to remember and re-create the past.

That’s why “Bobby” is important, even though it’s not destined for a big box office. The film written and directed by Emilio Estevez, son of actor-turned-liberal-political-icon Martin Sheen, is an admiring, even fawning look at Kennedy during his dramatic and doomed quest for the presidency in 1968. So, while the reviews have not been kind and the overall audience is likely to be small, the film’s buzz potential, not to mention prize potential, is enormous.

The chattering classes on both sides of the political aisle are disproportionately likely to see it, and, of course, to chatter about it. David Brooks of The New York Times, for example, a self-described conservative, was nonetheless moved to devote a whole column to Kennedy’s love of ancient Greek poetry. And what chatterer doesn’t love a poet?

Indeed, “Bobby” can be thought of as a modern hagiography, that’s Greek for “study of saints.” In the film Kennedy appears as a sort of magical presence, speaking to us only in old TV news clips, meditating on war, peace and social injustice, all lovingly woven into the movie’s story line. And although that story line, featuring 22 important Hollywood actors whose characters all find themselves in Los Angeles on the fateful night of June 5, 1968, is mostly a string of “Grand Hotel”-ish soap opera cliches, maybe that’s the point: We live our humdrum, even cheesy little lives, except for those rare moments when we are graced by the presence of some heroic, albeit tragic figure.

Director Estevez makes sure to tell us what he thinks Americans lost when Bobby left us, the best chance we had, back in ’68, for peace abroad and social harmony at home. And if that leads people to think that Bobby’s party, the Democratic Party, is better for America today, well, that’s OK, too.

The movie does not remind us, of course, that it was Bobby’s brother, President John F. Kennedy, who accelerated U.S. involvement in Vietnam in the early ’60s. Nor does it tell us that the original “peace” candidate in 1968 was another Democrat, Sen. Eugene McCarthy; it was McCarthy, not Bobby, who dared challenge the pro-war incumbent president, Lyndon B. Johnson. Bobby came along later, after LBJ was politically crippled, seeking to snatch away the peace platform that McCarthy had established.

It’s said that a free press is guaranteed only to those who own one, and that goes for studios, too. Yes, the Internet has small “d” democratized much of the media. But it’s still not possible for bloggers to make a movie. So while occasionally a Mel Gibson can slip through the filter with a film that makes a culturally conservative point, for the most part, as “Bobby” makes plain, liberals still control the gate-keeping and green-lighting in Hollywood. And so the left will continue to control the past, and the shaping of our memory of that past. And that’s the key to power in the political here and now.