It happens all the time in sports. When a golfer buys a new putter or a baseball player injects steroids in his butt, athletes are always looking for an edge.
Now, I barely qualify the bowling I do every Wednesday night as a sport. And describing my three hours of standing in a smoky alley and rolling a ball down a lane as even slightly athletic, well, that's a stretch.
But after years of sucky bowling, I shook things up this week. And the results were tremendous.
I'm not the worst bowler in the Bay View Bowl Wednesday night men's league, but I'm close. Heading into this week, I was carrying a 158 average. A few years ago, I peaked at 160, but I've been in a rut for a long time.
Finally, I bought a new and aggressive bowling ball. It's called the Hammer "No Mercy," and it set me back about $190. The night before I tried it out two weeks ago, I had a dream of throwing some ridiculous hook ball and scoring a 250.
That didn't happen.
Not only did the ball hook less than my previous weapon, the "Swamp Monster," I was all over the place. I think I shot about a 125. I felt depressed.
Then, I actually figured it out. After all these years, I finally understood my problem. Throwing a hook in bowling is very much like throwing an underhand spiral with a football. It involves holding one's wrist perfectly straight, which is easier said than done. Over time, I have developed a nasty habit of letting my wrist go somewhat limp, which had the effect of nullifying the natural spin inherent in the ball.
I took this knowledge to the bowling pro shop and bought myself a fancy-pants wrist support, which looks more like a prop from "American Gladiators" than something one would use in bowling.
Last night, I tried it out in competition and rolled a 588 series, which for me, is a personal best. That broke down into a 161, 220 (yes, a 220) and a 207. The ball was hitting the pocket on almost every roll, and in that second game, I was one split away from at least a 240. I won two out of three games against a guy with a 185 average.
It almost felt like cheating. With my new ball and wrist support I bowled 114 pins over my average. But it also was a lot of fun. Bowling didn't feel frustrating last night; it felt thrilling.
Who knows if I can repeat the results week after week, but I got a little sense of why athletes get obsessive about their equipment: Sports (even bowling) are more fun when you don't suck.
Winning isn't everything, but it's not so bad, either.
Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.
Before launching OnMilwaukee.com in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.
Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.