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I'm sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, but bowling may have an image problem. Why is this, and why should we, as citizens, care? It's not good for America for bowling to fret. Bowling is too ubiquitous.
People I know (or, anyway, overhear) are forever talking about bowling nights. I drive past bowling alleys, and I'm positive that something wonderful (even awesome and mysterious) must be going on in there now, although that was never the case whenever I was there. And I see bowling everywhere on television. Yet bowling isn't in the newspaper, and nobody ever analyzes bowling.
But, God, is it ever there, is it ever around. Of all the things in sports (assuming, in the first place, that bowling is in sports), bowling is most like the senior prom and the church fair and trick or treat and buying a new bathing suit and Jujyfruits.
In the end, here is what I finally decided: Bowling is a lot like a halftime ceremony, only you are in it.
You haven't got the foggiest idea who made me think these thoughts. If I gave you a million guesses, you'd never guess right. You would guess Rumpelstiltskin before you guessed the right answer.
And the right answer is, Richard Nixon.
Yes, of the Whittier Nixons. Several years ago I was interviewing him about Washington, D.C., but he kept bringing up the subject of bowling. Nixon, you'll recall, put bowling lanes in the White House. Jimmy Carter had them yanked out. Harry Truman put bowling lanes in the White House, too, although then they were bowling alleys. Dwight D. Eisenhower removed them, whatever they were called. Bowling cuts across political lines. Anyway, Mr. Nixon kept haranguing me, saying there were so-and-so many bowlers in the U.S., but the press didn't write enough about bowling. SPORTS ILLUSTRATED didn't write near enough about bowling! He didn't come right out and say it, but I got the drift: If Woodward and Bernstein had only been good American boys, writing about bowling or, even better, rolling a few lines themselves, then....
Finally, I assured him that someday I would do my best to right this wrong to bowling. If Paul Harvey were telling this story, he would say that I am keeping a promise to a president, or, as Dr. George R. Allen (whom you'll meet later) would have it, I am keeping a PROMISE to a PRESIDENT.
Now please understand, I'm not altogether a bowling innocent. As a child I was a pinboy. I have met both Don Carter and Chris Schenkel. But you would certainly not consider me a pin pal or a student of keglermania. No, I set out to examine bowling academically, not unlike the way the intrepid Margaret Mead ventured off to Samoa. I even had this magazine issue me a small Japanese camera, so that I might also record my impressions on film, to provide a full sensory experience.
(I encountered one major problem as a photographer. I was often too shy to take strange bowlers' pictures from the front, where they could see me taking their pictures, so many of my shots of bowlers are from the rear. Felicitously, this is how we normally see bowlers—their posteriors, not their faces—so you're being treated to some cinema verité here in my debut as a lensman.)