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Opening Arguments

What price perfection?

I used to be a fairly regular bowler, but it's something I no longer pursue. I don't think I've been in a bowling alley for 10 years, and I haven't kept up with the game. So I found this intriguing:

Brad Bowman now owns 51 perfect games. Yet this one was different.
The 35-year-old Indianapolis resident threw back-to-back 300s last month for the first time in his career.
"It was the first time in a long time I was really kind of nervous throwing the last ball, believe it or not," Bowman said of his final 300.
That might have something to do with the crowd watching.

[. . .]

Bowman said it was common years ago for crowds to watch a 300 game unfold. But now that so many occur, other bowlers usually don't gather.
This isn't a pro bowler mind you, just a league fanatic, and he has 51 perfect games, and 300s are so common now that people won't even stop to watch one happening unless it's a guy's second in a row? Clearly, something had happened in the world of bowling that had escaped my attention, so I did a little Googling and found this New York Times article from 2000:

Thirty years ago, throwing a 300 made you a bowling celebrity, the Paul Anka of your local alley. The American Bowling Congress in Greendale, Wis., would solemnly present you with a gold ring to signal your ascension into an elite club. The bowling alley would memorialize your feat with a plaque or a glass-encased shrine. And from that day forward, it was a safe bet you would never buy your own coffee ever again.

These days, you had better bring some change if you think a 300 game gets you a cup of joe, because you have lots of company.

Thanks largely to NASA-like advances in bowling-ball technology and the more liberal application of lubricants upon lane surfaces -- by bowling center proprietors seeking to enliven a game of fickle popularity -- the number of perfect games has exploded. Teenagers in youth leagues are throwing them. Retired people in senior leagues are throwing them. There is a bowling alley mechanic in Nassau County who has thrown perfect games with his right hand and his left.

[. . .]

The American Bowling Congress, the governing body of the sport, reports that in the 1968-69 season, it recorded 905 perfect games in league and tournament matches; in the 1998-99 season, it recorded 34,470.

That figure represents about a 3,700 percent increase in 30 years.

Forgive me if you knew this years ago and I'm just repeating old news to you. It's new to me, and more than a little disheartening. I remember what a holy grail the 300 score once was. It wasn't quite the big deal a hole-in-one for golf has always been, but it was right up there -- to achieve it, you needed skill and, frequently, a little bit of luck, too.  Most bowlers went their whole lives and only got close, if that. It was a lofty goal that, once achieved, gave you bragging rights and your name on the wall of the bowling establishment.

But what's the point if "perfection" is so easy to achieve that almost anybody can do it on any given night?