A fun story I just wrote for my Creative Sports Writing class — we went bowling during class and conducted press conferences in order to write up the game for a story! Enjoy 🙂
17 students. 10 pins. 1 goal: to be the best bowler of the day. The pressure was high and The Mardi Gras Bowling Center in Chapel Hill was virtually empty when the students walked in on Monday afternoon. Everyone thought bowling veteran Darryl Brunson would win, but it was dark horse and former soccer player Ryan Killen that stunned everyone with the victory.
It was a scene out of a late 80s’ movie – retro decorations, lots of neon and old-timey lanes and equipment made up the bowling center at the end of a strip mall on Farrington Road. The students laced up the worn-out bowling shoes they were given and tested out the different weights and sizes of the balls to find the perfect fit. Names were inputted into the system, and everyone waited to begin. Each student was hungry for the competition, to prove themselves as the superior bowler of the day and bask in glory for years to come – and all they had was one game to do it in. After a brief pep talk from the class’ fearless leader, Tim Crothers, the lanes came to life with action.
In the beginning it was anyone’s game. Only two of the 17 students, Nicole Booth and Cara Siliakus, scored a spare during the first frame, and there were no strikes. Trevor Marks started the first five frames with seven consecutive gutter balls (yes, it can be done.) Over on the sixth lane, Killen bowled a strike on his second turn, and then his third. Everyone else was also trying their best with mixed results, several gutter balls, a few expletives and a broken nail. Brian Gallagher was busy on lane two perfecting his underhand throw approach, one he swore by and inspired his lane-mates to try as well. Before the students knew it, five frames had passed. Time to size up the competition.
Brunson brought his own shoes and ball, but unfortunately didn’t bring his A-game. Growing up as the son of an AMF bowling alley manager, though, he had big expectations. After five frames, he was trailing behind four students, but not lacking in confidence. He attributed his performance to the conditions in The Mardi Gras Bowling Center.
“The lanes are dry,” he said. “A professional like myself is suffering at a disadvantage.”
Next up was an unlikely leader, Booth– or “I,” as she was known on the lane. A complete accident when inputting her name had turned into a possible alter-ego, she thought. She stood at 5 feet 1 inch, surprised that her performance in the first half of the game was enough to put her at the top of the leaderboard. She cited walking up slowly when she bowled, throwing the ball down the middle, and above all, believing in herself.
“I didn’t expect this,” Booth said. “But now I’m trying to win.”
Gallagher, the underhanded bowler, scored in the top three after half of the game. He considered his “granny style” throw “efficient,” and felt ready to continue the strategy that was working for him for the remainder of the game.
“I woke up feeling dangerous,” he said. “I just gotta keep hitting, keep getting pins.”
Last but certainly not least was the most inexperienced of the leading bunch. Ryan Killen had only bowled a few times in his life, and certainly not within the last three years. So what was working for him? He thought it was his strategy to switch up the way he threw the ball. After an unsuccessful first frame where he only knocked down one pin, he adopted a two-handed toss coming from the right side, and it seemed to work. Three strikes later, he was confident about the rest of the game.
“I got a strike in my fifth frame,” Killen said. “I don’t know how scoring works, but I think I have an edge…I think I have a 42% chance of winning.”
Then the final five frames began, and the four leaders brought a strong finish. Killen bowled three strikes in a row, Gallagher two in a row, with Brunson and Booth scoring spares. They were all confident, but noticeably tense going into the tenth frame.
Only one player reigned supreme at the end of the game – Ryan Killen. With a final score of 162, Killen surged ahead for the win. Gallagher and Brunson tied for second with scores of 129, while Booth scored a 125. He was sure it was the highest score he had ever received while bowling, but at the end of the day, he was already thinking about dinner.
“You know what, sometimes the best bowler doesn’t always win,” Killen said. “Now I’m going to eat pizza at Lenoir [Dining Hall] and watch hockey.”