There is no 'I' in bowler“It truly is a team sport," Denfeld-Marshall coach and conference coordinator Rick Curnow said. “People think of bowling as an individual sport because that’s often how it’s portrayed, but not in this format. One bowler can’t win it.’’
By: Louie St. George, for the Duluth Budgeteer News
Remember the last time you went bowling? Maybe it was a Friday night outing with friends, the start of a night on the town. Or perhaps it was a Saturday afternoon family function.
Regardless, you enjoyed yourself. You had to – you were bowling. Nobody has a bad time bowling, unless you do it wrong – or unless you drop the ball on your foot, which tends to lead to a string of unsavory four-letter words. Otherwise, bowling is a wonderful pursuit, replete with strikes, spares and snickering.
Lots of snickering.
Last Saturday at the Incline Station, strikes and spares were in abundance as the North East Conference of the Minnesota High School Bowling circuit invaded the alley. Eleven club teams – six varsity and five junior varsity – spent the afternoon blistering pins 10 at a time while a hearty throng of fans looked on.
While bowling is typically regarded as a strictly solo sport, the team game is fascinating. Using the Baker System, each squad is comprised of five bowlers who throw two frames apiece, with the anchor – most likely the team’s best bowler – responsible for the 10th and, if necessary, 11th and 12th frames.
There are no “one-man shows,” and each team is only as strong as its weakest bowler. Silver Bay, for example, has a young juggernaut by the name of Jacob Hofschulte. A sophomore, Hofschulte notches a strike or spare on more than 93 percent of this throws (which was the second highest mark of some-1,750 Minnesota high school bowlers in 2010).
Still, Silver Bay is a mere 2-4 and in fourth place in the North East Conference, which also includes Superior, Denfeld-Marshall, East, Hermantown-Proctor and Two Harbors.
“It truly is a team sport,” Denfeld-Marshall coach and conference coordinator Rick Curnow said. “People think of bowling as an individual sport because that’s often how it’s portrayed, but not in this format. One bowler can’t win it.”
Another thing about the team format, the same setup utilized by the NCAA: The participants love it. Like any other sport, there is a competitive vibe that pervades the alley during a match. That vibe, though, is dwarfed by a sincere sense of camaraderie.
Last weekend, high-fives between opponents were just as common as high-fives between teammates. When one squad got on a roll – Superior, for example, which produced multiple streaks of four consecutive strikes while winning eight of 10 games for a 2-0 match record to stay undefeated in 2011 – others joined in the cheering. And the fans followed suit, appearing more as fans of high school bowling in general rather than one specific team in particular.
“It’s not as competitive, but it’s (the competitive spirit) still there,” Hofschulte said.
The North East Conference’s season-ending tournament is Nov. 5 at the Incline Station. That day’s winner automatically qualifies for the state tournament, which is in early December.
Expect even more fans –not to mention more noise – for those prolific competitions, which, said Superior coach Carl Mencel, only helps the bowlers.
“The more pumped up they get, the better they play,” said Mencel, whose team is the defending state champ.
Read more of St. George at louiestgeorge.blog.com.