Wednesday February 27th, 2008

OK, I've learned to accept it that the Dodgers left Brooklyn and the Colts left Baltimore and NASCAR left Rockingham. And I even finally bore up to the reality that Brad actually left Jennifer. But, I'm sorry, I simply can't take it if bowling leaves Milwaukee.

Well, not all bowling -- the headquarters of the United States Bowling Congress, the heart and soul, ye, the shirt and shoes of American bowling, located in Milwaukee for more than a century, is threatening to pick up and move to Texas.

That benighted decision by the bowling poobahs is scheduled to be made by March 14. Say it aint so. As an erstwhile pin boy, I plead with the USBC to keep its sport in the city bowling made famous. After all, as Crackerjack goes with baseball, as tailgating with football, so have bowling and beer and Milwaukee always gone together.

In fact, do you know how the old German-Americans used to play the game? Three teams would compete against each other. Have you ever heard of any sport where there are three teams? Everywhere else it's two. But here's the way it worked with bowling: two of the three teams would bowl against each other, while the third team went to the bar and drank beer. Then they'd rotate. Golf may have it's nineteenth hole at the end of a round, but bowling had a moveable nineteenth hole.

No wonder bowling prospered long into this century. Why, in winter time, its big heroes, like Don Carter and Dick Weber, were as famous as basketball and hockey stars. As recently as 40 years ago, there were nine million sanctioned bowlers in this country. But then the bubble burst. Now it's hardly two-and-a-half million. Especially as tennis and golf moved out of the country clubs, poor bowling appeared to be de classe. Bowling shirts were the epitome of tacky and, oh, those multi-colored shoes that looked like something elves would wear.

It's funny, isn't it? In most sports, the finest compliment you can pay an athlete is to call him a "blue-collar kinda guy." But the whole sport of bowling took it on the chin because it was considered too blue-collar.

Bowling tried to upgrade its image. Suddenly, you were supposed to call alleys "lanes" and gutters "channels." Please. You are what you are. You might as well try and have baseball start calling dugouts "patios."

And wouldn't you know it: what president put alleys in the White House? Right -- Richard Nixon. I interviewed President Nixon once. His big gripe against sports journalists? They didn't pay enough attention to bowling. Just bowling's luck -- Nixon. And it's Gerald Ford who plays golf, and Ronald Reagan who rides horses.

Then Robert Putnam came out with his famous treatise, Bowling Alone, which featured the decline in numbers of weekly bowling leagues to illustrate how Americans had stopped doing things together. Apparently, younger Americans would rather play video games by themselves than go down to the alleys and rent some funny shoes and drink beer with their buddies.

And now they might move bowling central from Milwaukee to Texas? Hey, you might as well make Oshkosh the rodeo capital of America and transport the Alamo to Sheboygan. Bowlers of the world, unite. Have another brewski and keep bowling where God meant it to be.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.