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Bowling is a blood sport

Don't let anyone fool you. Bowling is a blood sport.

Just ask my calloused, ripped-apart right thumb. I took one for the team Wednesday night during the Professional Bowlers Association tournament bowl with the pros extravaganza at Lava Lanes.

Did I bowl well? No.

Did I give it my best try? Not really.

Was it worth the embarrassment? Oh yeah!

How many of you out there in corporate slaveland can say that your job actually pays you to bowl?

I can. Sorry folks, but this is what passes for journalism nowadays. Woodward and Bernstein were chumps.

Nothing surpasses the feeling of six sets of eyes bearing down on you as you pitch a purple ball along a heavily greased lane, rolling it ever so carefully to victory and total vindication of your career choice.

And by the way, the thought of Rupert Murdoch, who recently bought this fine paper, footing the bill for my bowling lesson leaves me with absolutely zero guilt, just in case you were wondering.

Here's how the thing worked: A select few in this valley were able to score VIP passes to roll with the professional bowlers that invaded the county for Sunday's ESPN-televised Lumber Liquidators Earl Anthony Medford Classic held at Lava Lanes.

I must thank Mail Tribune Sports Editor Tim Trower for my unfortunate invite this year.

I disgraced my employer by rolling six gutter balls and four one-ball rolls. I admit it.

Imagine my horror when introducing myself to my teammates for the night. They were, of course, perfectly humble speaking of their bowling skills. At first.

Once the game began I realized I was in a class of my own. The lowest bottom.

I just couldn't get the ball to do that curvy thingy that seemed to knock all the pins down. I stood in awe of women in their 70s as they pitched the ball straight and true down the lane, time and time again.

Each of their expertly placed rolls chipped away at my manhood.

I write this a broken man. But a much better bowler.

I did manage to throw six strikes in the course of three games. Each one was preceded by ridiculous amounts of failure in front of my team.

To be fair, they were supportive of my weakness. I got sympathetic pats on the back, as if my childhood dog had just died.

I felt their judgment slicing into my back like so many rusted knives. But I took it in stride. And managed to talk a fair amount of trash in the process.

The secret of surviving a situation in which you are clearly the lamest of underdogs is to strut around defiantly, making it known to everyone present that you could dominate them if you chose to do so.

I find that I make a lot of friends doing this.

Time and time again, I heaved the ball down the lane. Though not before it clipped the side of my leg and rumbled sadly to the gutter. That trip to the gutter lasts so long. I quickly learned the trick of looking away in disgust right when the ball begins its futile trajectory. It makes you seem cool to display utter disappointment in your abilities.

The one thing I took away from my pro-bowling night is just how awesome professional bowlers are.

I've watched "The Big Lebowski" and "Kingpin" roughly 30 times apiece and have come away with the upmost respect for bowlers.

But nothing prepared me for the real thing.

One thing about pro bowlers, they never turn down a chance to show you how much you need to learn about the game.

I was lucky enough to roll next to Mike Machuga, who made bowling an acrobatic sport right before my eyes.

The guy stood on chairs and managed to heave strike after strike.

Meanwhile, I dabbled in the correct footwork and arm speed, all for nothing.

You'd think these guys were prima donnas for earning up to $4 million in winnings on the circuit. They were anything but.

The pros rotated with each game, allowing us to stand in awe of their skill.

I watched these guys closely, looking for any indication of smugness that would taint them for making me look so helpless on the lane.

All I saw were guys who realized how good they have it in this life. They get to roll balls and knock down wooden pins for a living.

The only thing most of them had to complain about was the fact that league rules barred them from drinking a beer during a pro event.

If only you and I were so lucky.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471, or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.