Does "Joe Average" still bowl?

I’m a microbrew-drinking, NPR-listening, organic-food-buying liberal, so during major elections I’m constantly reminded that I’m not a real American. That’s fine; I’m used to it.

But Barack Obama got some criticism last week when he went to a bowling alley and rolled a rather awkward 37. The talking heads were abuzz over how this proves he’s out of touch with middle America.

I started thinking about it–I know all kinds of people who hunt and fish, dozens of NASCAR and WWE fans, countless churchgoers and SUV drivers and whatnot. But aside from my in-laws and a few of their associates, I don’t know anybody who bowls on any sort of regular basis. The only people who ever talk about going to our local alley are having a birthday party there for their kids.

It might just be a rural Kentucky thing, but I’ve lived a few other places and I haven’t really known any bowlers there, either. It might also be along the lines of Pauline Kael’s “I don’t know how Nixon could have won; I don’t know anybody who voted for him” comment, but I really don’t think it is.

Is bowling still so popular that the masses will think less of you if you’re bad at it? Or is my sample really that skewed?

A couple of months ago, a few schoolmates and I decided to spend a Saturday afternoon at the local lanes. I was surprised to see the people I did–along with the expected birthday party, there were plenty of people of all ages out bowling. Posters on the wall advertised leagues, and various other posters tracked team scores.

Although the lanes weren’t packed that afternoon, somebody is obviously doing a lot of bowling. Whether or not they admit it, however, is another question.

Considering that the USBC National Tournament pulls in about forty thousand bowlers every year, there must be somebody bowling on a regular basis. There aren’t nearly as many as there were in the early eighties, but leagues still run most nights and weekends, most of the high schools around here have teams, and YABa is still going strong with kids’ leagues on Saturday mornings. My husband didn’t have any trouble finding a team to bowl with in either of the cities where he was doing contract work.

Of course, my perceptions are probably a little skewed. My husband has been a bowler since he could hold a ball, so a lot of his friends are, too.

I’ve still got all my YABA patches!

There are still many bowling alleys out here in Massachusetts – both the mutant candlepin bowling that Masachusetts loves and the standard 16-pound-ball tenpin bowling. My daughter’s been to several birthday parties at local bowling alleys.
On a sadder note, the bowling alley back in my hometown in New Jersey has just closed. Now the nearest bowling alley to where I grew up is abouyt 40 miles away. That’s weird, since there must be a dozen alleys within 40 minutes of where I now live.
Regarding the OP:

That’s odd, because when I was considering a job in Owensboro, Kentucky, I looked up info on the place and found that it was listed as having the largest number of bowling alleys per capita of any place in the US. Have things changed that much? Or or they that different between parts of Kentucky?

For another data point, my 21yr old brother just joined a bowling league, mostly for the social aspects of it. And we have a league team here at work, but membership has been declining steeply, as it’s been made mostly of retirees in the past several years, and they’re prone to. . . discontinuing their participation.

I had to do a search to find out what candlepin bowling was. So now I know, and I’ll reciprocate by introducing you to a Canadian variant of the game that is quite popular up here: five pin bowling. Great for kids, as the balls are smaller and lighter, though a lot of adults like the game too.

Thanks, Spoons. There’s also duckpin bowling (which you can also find in Massachusetts, if you look):

Oddly enough, around here some of the older bowling alleys have remade themselves as trendy bars, where some effete snobs can amuse themselves by bowling while sipping their appletinis and cosmos.

Bowling is still popular around here. I was on a women’s league for a while (due to peer pressure - I am best friends with the league’s secretary. I quit because I suck) and I think our high school has a league now. I was also in a Girl Scout league as a kid.

Last time I went to a lane on a Saturday afternoon, it was packed. There was a kid’s birthday party. For a while when I was in high school, I “hung out” at one of the local alleys on Friday nights for laser bowl - where they crank up the music and turn out the lights and everything’s groovy-looking. That wasn’t too long ago, and business seemed good.

I asked my friend who’s a regular bowler how the Ohio smoking ban has affected the bowling alleys. She said that one of the owners of the alley where she goes said it actually helped business, where we thought it would hurt business. I guess the non-smokers of the world enjoy smoke-free bowling now.

Yup - some of our closest friends are in leagues. My husband used to be as did I some years ago.

Obamas 37 was for 5 frames.

I’m pretty average, I go bowling a couple times a year. It’s fun once in a while.

I bowl occasionally. I’d be unhappy with 37 in 5 frames, but not excessively so.

Which is about the stupidest criticism I’ve ever heard. I hardly think “middle America” gives a rat’s patoot whether a Presidential candidate can bowl or not.

I bowl 3 leagues a week. Last night, there were many people at the lanes for “open (non-league) bowling”. I’m sure more people in any given year go out for a session of recreational bowling than hit the golf course or go fishing (assuming the people in question are not aficionados of any of those pursuits).

So I’d say bowling is still popular with the average American.

Hey, at least he didn’t say he shot a 300 while dodging sniper fire! :wink:

Of course, there is also feather bowling.

The two bowling alleys closest to me have closed permanently. There used to be lots of league bowling, with scores posted in the local papers. Just about everyone I know who bowls is busy with second jobs, or caring for grandkids while parents work second jobs. It’s dying around here.

Bowling is pretty strong in northern Virginia.

It was huge back home. My grandfather went to the USBC Open (previously called the ABC Championship) from 1938 to 1998, missing a few years because of the war. His grandson, my cousin, is now their tournament director.

Most of my family bowls. My brother is pretty good. I’m a casual bowler at best.

I’ve always detested bowling and would sit and drink beer whenever any friends wanted to go. Now, I only drop kids off at parties.

I sort of agree with the OP; it was my opinion that its popularity is waning. The bowling alley near me is sort of run down, although not excessively seedy.

Sounds like Bowlmor lanes in Manhattan. We used to have company outings there.