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    Do I Like It Curved or Straight? The Critical Bowling Question

    johnsportsThe headline of this article is the most important question serious bowlers ask themselves when getting their balls customized. OK, maybe not in those exact words, but whether bowlers prefer to throw a straight, curved or hooked ball down the lane is significant to their blowing (oops, I mean bowling … darn that auto correct!) style and ultimately the score.

    Growing up in Montrose, CA, (a suburb of Glendale, which is a suburb of Los Angeles) my family lived a couple of blocks away from a bowling alley (queue nostalgic dream like sequence). I have fond memories of my brother and me skateboarding down to the alley twice a week to bowl a few games and spending several dollars. It was a great getaway from homework and cleaning rooms at our family motel business. I was a typical overachieving nine-year-old Asian kid before America knew we existed. I got straight A’s, cleaned bathrooms, competed in junior tennis and little league baseball, painted award-winning artworks, was a kung fu disciple of a real Shaolin monk in Chinatown, and bowled a 140 average. However, I did not play a musical instrument, so I was a disappointment.

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    But I digress. My now identified as “tiger” mom gave permission for us to bowl because she felt the sport would further our mental discipline and mathematical acumen. By the way, I hated math and was the one Asian kid who couldn’t do it. You see, back then we had to keep our own score (queue daunting music)! For those of you who actually have kept a bowling score, you know what I am talking about. It is hair pulling complex. That’s why every bowling group has a dedicated scorekeeper friend who thinks we truly want to hang out with him/her (this is a joke, kind of). Thank god they’ve invented the automatic scorer in bowling, which, of course, is a must have in bowling alleys today.

    Speaking of the present, here in the San Francisco Bay Area there are many LGBT bowling leagues where gay and transgender men and women are throwing curved and straight balls at ten identically curvaceous, hard and thick pins. My good friend Cody Hart, who has bowled in the PRIDE league in Alameda the past three seasons, intimated that when selecting a customized ball, his fingers must penetrate the ball just the right depth with every insertion in order to achieve a perfect fit. No wonder he really enjoys bowling. Cody bowls not for the low impact exercise, not for the opportunities to make many new friends, not for the fun of it, but for those moments of insertion where he achieves the perfect fit, every time.

    Cody introduced me to Tony Hoey, who runs PRIDE bowling league along with Gary Thackeray. Tony explained a typical bowling league lasts 32 weeks long. (Whoa, back the truck up. How many gay men can make that kind of a commitment? Lesbians on the other hand…) PRIDE’s season, however, is only 16 weeks, so I concluded players only need to make ½ the commitment. See? I am good in math!

    The main takeaway I got from Tony was bowlers of all levels can compete together in the same league and games because the scoring is handicapped, which simply means scores are calculated based on bowlers’ established average, then subtracted from the league’s base score, then multiply the league’s percentage, if any, to that subtracted number, and voila, you have your handicap! Once my head stopped spinning, Tony reminded me that the league does all the calculations. Thank <insert preferred deity of choice>!

    Whether you are an advanced, competitive bowler or a beginner, if you would like to have fun and meet great people like Cody, then Tony has a spot for you in his PRIDE league. Around the Bay Area, Tony says bowlers can find other LGBT leagues in Daly City, Pacifica and San Leandro.

    Now back to me, for those of you wondering, the last time I bowled as an adult, I curved, hooked and even went straight. I like to keep the game interesting. That’s what I tell my friends.

    For more information on PRIDE bowling league in Alameda, please contact Tony Hoey at

    For information on other LGBT leagues, visit the International Gay Bowling Organization website:

    John Chen, a UCLA alumnus and an avid sports fan, has competed as well as coached tennis, volleyball, softball and football teams.