Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Mr Bowling

Don Carter
Fantasy Bob is indebted to the Guardian newspaper for bringing to his attention the death earlier this month of Don Carter - known at one time as Mr Bowling.

FB's worldwide handful of readers are puzzled and are already reaching for their copies of Wisden to check this Carter chap's statistics. Those familiar with go ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton may be thinking that FB has misnamed their revered President Dave Carter (who might well validly make a claim for such a title).

But they should put Wisden aside and forget about Carlton's revered President. For this is not bowling in the cricketing sense, that is in the true sense of the word.  This is 10 Pin Bowling, an altogether different pastime which is not really bowling but skittles. Don Carter was the greatest skittle player of his era - aka the golden age of bowling - and possibly ever. He was the first athlete (and given the nature of 10 Pin Bowling, FB uses the word advisedly) to gain a $1m commercial contract when he signed up with Ebonite, a manufacturer of bowling balls in 1964. Amazing when you consider that in 1961 Arnold Palmer only earned $6,000 from endorsing Wilson golf clubs.

Carter retired in 1970 and died in Miami last week at the age of 85.

Yabba dabba do
FB remembers 10 Pin Bowling with some affection. It seems the bluest of blue collar US inventions although it is probably developed from imported German pastimes. In the 1960s it took the UK by storm, perhaps inspired by the Flintstones who were regular participants and alleys opening up one after the other. If FB recalls correctly it featured regularly on TV.  At its peak there were over 160 bowling alleys in the UK - 2 of those were in FB's native Aberdeen. For a few years in FB's formative period a visit the lanes was a regular outing. 

In truth, FB never quite mastered the scoring which involved crosses and carrying over numbers from one box to another.  Now he understands scoring is done automatically - a development that most junior cricketers who turn out for FB's all star 4th XI seem to think has already happened in cricket. Blasting the ball down and getting a strike didn't seem a particularly difficult enterprise. However FB's attempt to replicate his even then world famous inswinger, by adopting an over arm approach did not commend itself to the owners of the lanes and his interest in the game waned. 

A lack of re-investment and waning interest led to a general deterioration of bowling alleys in the 1970s. But FB understands that new life has been breathed into the sport in the UK. During the late 1980s and early 1990s the number of ten-pin bowling alleys across the UK rose to over two hundred higher than it had ever been. Today, over 100 million bowlers play in over 90 different countries and it is suggested that player numbers are higher than in any other sport other than soccer. There is an active movement to make bowling an Olympic sport, and in 1998 ten-pin bowling was included for the first time at the Commonwealth Games. It remains a huge professional sport in the US.

But in FB's opinion the development of a proper over arm technique still hampers the development of the sport.

No comments:

Post a Comment