The sport of bowling has a long, rich history with its ancestral character linked to the Middle Ages and England’s King Edward III during the late 1300s. It gained considerable popularity in England during King Henry VIII’s reign in the early 1500s as the sport of the Court. “Well, if it’s good enough for Old Henry, it’ll do just fine for us!” Those were the words uttered by Amanda Brannum on a sunny winter Saturday in Denver when a rag-tag collection of GroundFloor Media staff joined forces with more than 22 kids from Tennyson Center for Children (www.childabuse.org <http://www.childabuse.org> ) to take on a few games of this old storied sport.
GroundFloor Media has had a five-year relationship with Tennyson Center for Children, the region’s oldest residential center for abused and neglected kids, that has taken the form of pro bono public relations and actively participating in social outings with the Center’s resident kids, ages 5 to 18.
Stepping up to play their first game, many of the kids were a little uncertain and timid at first. To help break the ice with the kids, we asked them to make up their own special “bowling names” that we could input for the electronic scorecards at each lane. Bowling alter-egos started to emerge in the form of such characters as Master P, Slewdog, Wicked X and Striker, to name a few.
We warmed up with a few practice rounds, and soon the kids were enthusiastically unstoppable – each finding their unique style and technique at throwing the ball down the lane. Underhand, overhand, shot-putt and the often-famous “between-the-legs” release were all throwing variations seen and heard (cer-thump!) in the alley that afternoon. Undeterred by the occasional gutter ball, the kids anxiously awaited their next frame and started jockeying to play not only their own turns but also fill in for the GroundFloor Media staff so they could get more practice.
The arrival of nachos, French fries, hot dogs and chicken nuggets was a temporary “refueling” distraction after our first game. Re-energized, and with sticky fingers, we tackled a second game sporting improved skills and somewhat reckless abandon. Some of us suspected that the greasy French fry hands helped put some useful spin on the balls. As their confidence grew, Master P and Striker claimed they’d each found their own magic bowling balls and encouraged their fellow bowlers to use them for good luck. A sense of good sportsmanship and shared learning was an underlying tone amongst the kids as they took pride in their final scores of the day and celebrated with high-fives.
Overall, it was an afternoon of unbridled fun that included a healthy balance of strikes, spares, gutter balls and smiles. While no one qualified for the Professional Bowlers Association, the Tennyson Center kids and GroundFloor Media’s big kids-at-heart left the bowling alley with plenty of terrific new memories, a few tall tales about the “pin that almost went down” and new bragging rights for the most elegant bowling technique. Although 500 years have since passed since the days of King Henry VIII’s Court, I know that Slewdog and Wicked X would have given any member of Old Henry’s bowling team a run for their money.