Home on the lanes

I am not exactly known for my athletic prowess. I have never excelled as a participant in any sport, although I am quite proficient as a spectator. Growing up in Aggieland, I regularly went to A&M football games with my father back in the days before Johnny Manziel made the team respectable and when Kyle Field only held an intimate 40,000 or so. I took the path of least resistance in PE throughout my school career, but I improbably ended up on three straight champion intramural soccer teams in high school (despite being more of an impediment on the field than an active player). I was a member of the Middle Common Room cricket team when in grad school at Oxford, as just about anyone can stand around on a lawn in white clothing between tea breaks. When Marjorie and I arrived at the University of Kansas I didn’t know the first thing about basketball, but you have to be a fast learner in that environment (and living in Dr. Naismith’s house for a decade didn’t hurt either). Our season tickets in Allen Fieldhouse were somewhere up beyond the nosebleed section: after a game I always felt like I was suffering from altitude sickness, not to mention temporary deafness. Lately I have contented myself with watching sports mainly from the sofa, especially my beloved and benighted Baltimore Orioles, who I defiantly adopted in the late 1960s in opposition to my father’s cherished (and despicable) New York Yankees. 

The only sport in which I can claim even the most rudimentary expertise is bowling. Now I know what you’re thinking: first, that bowling is not a sport and, second, that little in the way of expertise is needed beyond perhaps funny shoes, a shirt with a groaner of a team name (e.g. The King Pins) stitched on the back, and a pot belly. Be that as it may, I love bowling and have been indulging regularly for a very long time. I started in sixth grade, when all the students at St. Michael’s Academy were bused across town to bowl for a couple hours every Wednesday afternoon, presumably to give our teachers (and the school’s physical plant) a much-deserved rest. I was not exactly enamored of bowling at the start, but I did well enough that at the end of the year I was presented with the “Upper School Bowling Award” at graduation. I am the first to admit this was not the Heisman Trophy or an Olympic medal, but I was darned proud of it and, modest though it was, it ended up being the only sporting recognition I would ever earn in my life.

My athletic ambition stoked by this external recognition, I started pestering my father to go bowling with me on weekends. My father did not drive — which, more so than being Japanese, regularly wearing Bermuda shorts, and not owning any firearms, make him quite an outlier in Bryan, Texas — so every Saturday we would get out our bikes and ride over to Triangle Bowl.  After cheeseburgers, fries, and large Big Reds (the diet of champions in bowling circles), we would intensely and very competitively roll a few games. My father usually won, which irritated me considerably, but we always enjoyed the time together and the good-natured rivalry made us both more proficient bowlers.

For a good many years after my father passed away, through college, graduate school, and beyond, I did not set foot in a bowling alley. Then, in about 2000, I was traveling with a group of KU undergraduates in China and was persuaded, against my better judgment, to go bowling in Wuhan late one night. I was immediately hooked again. As soon as I got back to Lawrence I started going to Royal Crest Lanes, first once a week or so, then twice, and ultimately as often as I could fit it into my schedule. I bought my own shoes, then a ball, then a better ball, and was soon decked out like a pro, with a tricked-out roller bag, flashy bowling shoes with flames up the sides, and lucky towels. When Marjorie and I left Kansas, I think I was as sad to say goodbye to Royal Crest (and my friends Mary and Jerry behind the desk) as I was bidding my university colleagues farewell.

Since coming to Dallas, the frequency of my bowling has tailed off considerably. I have little in the way of free time and it’s quite a drive to the nearest alleys. I should confess that I am quite picky about where I bowl. I am no fan of the fancy-schmancy new bowling centers popping up these days, especially in trendy places like Dallas, with martini bars and mood lighting and plush sofas and wall-to-wall hipsters and exorbitant prices. As I like to tell people, I like a bowling alley that smells of feet, a good old-fashioned place with families and ugly carpeting and a welcoming feel and (of course) Big Red on tap. Think The Big Lebowski. So these days I have to drive all the way to Garland (no biking that far) to a big warehouse of place with no official name that I know of, but with the letters B-O-W-L glowing starkly on the side facing the expressway. 

I understand that the bowling alley in Conway is the kind of place I will like. I hope I can squeeze enough time into my schedule to pick up a few games now and then. If there is a student bowling club, please consider me for faculty advisor.  And if there are professors and staff members who enjoy the sport, by all means let’s head down to the lanes. 

About Bill

William Tsutsui

Dr. William M. Tsutsui became the 11th President of Hendrix College on June 1, 2014. He came to Hendrix from Southern Methodist University where he was Dean and Professor of History at Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.