February 2015. It’s February, and if cabin fever hasn’t set in by now, you’re probably reading this from a warmer climate.
The problem with winter in the Northeast for many — at least if you prefer any outdoor sport but skiing — is that the bats, balls, rackets, clubs and cleats most likely remain in the closet. But if you’re itchin’ for some exercise and fun with your family, you should try open bowling.
My family welcomed in the new year by doing just that. A few days after the start of 2015, we enjoyed a family bowling night. We rented a pair of lanes at one of the local bowling centers for two hours of friendly competition, bonding, laughter and exercise.
There are few physical activities you can take part in with your grandchildren. But there we were, 12 of us of ages ranging from 4 to 59, engaging in the same activity, together.
Bowling is a sport that goes back to ancient Egypt, but today’s technological advances have made the game easy for all ages to enjoy.
Too young to comfortably lift a six-pound ball? Some centers provide ramps the little ones can use to just push the ball down a plastic slope, giving it enough speed to reach and topple the pins. My 4-year-old granddaughter loves it.
Big enough to roll the ball yourself, but not quite strong enough to control it? Most of today’s bowling centers are equipped with “bumpers” that automatically raise a fence-like device that keep the ball from veering off the lane and into the gutter.
For everyone else, well, find a comfortable delivery and let ‘er roll. Balls range in weight from six to 16 pounds, and centers offer plenty to choose from. Yes, there are professional bowlers, tournament bowling and league bowling. But taking part in open bowling gives everyone of all skill levels the chance to enjoy the sport together.
And no need to know how to keep score, since it’s done electronically and you keep track on an overhead screen.
Everyone participating needs to wear bowling shoes, but the casual bowler can purchase an adequate pair for as little as $25-35 for him or herself and save the rental fee.
Staten Island has two great options for anyone looking to enjoy a night on the lanes: Rab’s Country Lanes on Hylan Boulevard in Dongan Hills and Showplace Entertainment Center off the West Shore Expressway in Travis.
Costs for open bowling vary, and both centers offer special deals. See their websites: Showplace’s at http://showplacebowling.net/ and Rab’s at www.rabslanes.com.
Fun is the biggest benefit from open bowling, but it isn’t the only one. While you’re having a good time, you’re also giving yourself — especially your legs — a bit of a workout and burning fat. In fact, you can burn as many as 300 calories per game.
Best of all, it gets you moving during a time of the year when we often find ourselves plopped in front of the TV.
Most bowling centers also have snack bars as well as cocktail lounges with waitress service, making them a great choice for a night out.
You may want to limit your participation to open bowling, but giving the sport a try may inspire you to join a league. There are leagues for kids as well as adults, and leagues that let kids bowling with adults. There are men’s leagues, women’s leagues and leagues for both men and women. There are fun leagues, just for some friendly competition, as well as competitive leagues for the better-skilled.
So round up the troops and head for the local bowling center the next chance you get. It’s a great way to warm up a cold winter’s day.
Joe LoVerde coached youth sports on Staten Island for nearly 40 years. He’s also a longtime newspaper editor and sportswriter — and is a Staten Island Bowling Hall of Fame inductee.