Bowling for Ego



I went bowling yesterday for the 4th consecutive week. after a multi-year absence. My youngest son is now a freshman in High School. Because he is attempting to add some extra activities to his schedule and take release-time Seminary, he is required to take several classes outside of the normal schedule: Either some “A” hours before normal school hours, Summer School (blech) or online courses. He chose to take an online course: Bowling.

Okay, I know online bowling sounds weird, but let me assure you it is not some glorified Wii game – it is actual bowling. He takes tests and completes actual assignments online, but over the course of his course he must bowl 18 games and upload the scoresheets.

(Sorry for the long intro.) Yesterday, we showed up to a relatively empty bowling alley, plunked down money to rent some toxic bowling shoes, and found our lane. We laced up and found some equally toxic bowling balls and got started.

A few minutes into our game, a group of three showed up and took up residence in the lane next to us. It was a young man, with what appeared to be his mother and an older woman – I’m guessing grandma. They turned on their score screen and up came a screen that showed that they were part of a league. Their screen was different from ours – it showed handicaps and other, fancier stuff than ours did.

Then I noticed that they had rolled in with them a giant duffle bag on wheels. The unzipped it and out came the shoes. They had their own bowling shoes! And they looked nice and new and fancy – and they probably even fit right! Ours looked like they have been in rotation since the Great War and should have been quarantined by the CDC.

Next, they took out their bowling balls. THEIR bowling balls.  They were beautiful, as bowling balls go. They had swirls and flecks of bright, neon colors, and did not have the look of vintage cannon balls that we were using. I had my first twinge of jealousy – not because the balls were pretty, but because they probably had them custom-drilled to meet the exact dimensions of their hands.  How cool would that be?

I’ll bet that they didn’t even feel like submerging their hands in boiling water whenever they left a bowling alley. They were obviously the real deal, and we looked like dorks.

My son reminded me that it was my turn, so I quit coveting and got up to bowl. Now mind you, I have bowled now and again during my life, more when I was young. I did take a bowling class at BYU to get a fast PE credit. Since we were graded on improvement, I made sure to begin the class with a left-handed 86, and finish with a right-handed 211.  (I promise I looked and found nothing in the Honor Code about that.)

My bowling technique is very much like my technique in other areas of my life. I just walk up to the line, throw the ball hard, and watch what happens.  Usually, I can get close to where I want to be, and wreak havoc. I don’t have any fancy form, or cool spin action on the ball. I don’t line up weird or have a creative approach. I just walk up in my toxic shoes,  cargo shorts and t-shirt, and at chuck that thing down the lane.

After I threw, I walked back to my chair and watched the Fancy Bowlers. The kid next to me with the fancy shoes and the fancy ball, who was now wearing a fancy bowling glove, lined himself up, stared intently down the lane, and made a swift approach with beautiful form. The ball barely made a sound as it left his gloved grip as the fancy spin he put on the ball caused it to curve directly into….the gutter.

He looked irritated. I was surprised.  He complained to his mom and grandma, and impatiently waited for the ball return. Then he went through his preparation again. THIS time it was definitely not a gutter ball. THIS time he got 3. Three whole pins. He stomped back to the scorer’s chair and plopped down. “I’m just warming up,” he groused.

Next up, Mom. She did pretty much the same thing and got a 7. Grandma? She got two consecutive gutter balls, resulting in a big goose-egg on her scoreboard. But I must admit, the balls looked cool as the fancy colors flashed as they rolled down the gutter.

I know it is wrong, but the whole thing just kind of cracked me up.

I noticed that my son noticed too. Every time I bowled, I would turn around and he would be watching them, instead of me.

By the time they were finished with their first game, none of them had broken 100. There was a lot of complaining, and it didn’t seem like they were having much fun.

Ryan and I, on the other hand, weren’t bowling very well either, but we were enjoying each other’s company and rolling with our lack of skill. After it was all said and done, our scores were a bit better than our fancy neighbors, but my 177 beat them all.

We returned our toxic shoes and paid for our games. It had been a good time. On the way to the car I thought of an old expression, I asked Ryan if he knew it.

“Hey, have you ever heard the expression, “All hat and no cattle?”


“It’s an old cowboy expression that means that somebody looks like a real cowboy, but, when you get right down to it, they are just show. Big talk, but nothing to back it up.”

“Are you talking about the bowlers next to us?”

“Yep. All hat and no cattle.”

We chuckled and got in the car and headed home.

Later that night…

I was thinking about my encounter with the Fancy Bowlers earlier that day an realized I blew it. Three times. Three strikes. (In bowling lingo, three strikes is called a “turkey” and is a really good thing, but I am mixing my sports metaphors, and in this case we will go with baseball strikes, which are bad. I remain the turkey.)

Strike One: I looked at the Fancy Bowlers and their accoutrements and figured that they must be far superior bowlers than me, and I let it make me feel inferior.

President Benson had me dead to rights on this one: “There is, however, a far more common ailment among us—and that is pride from the bottom looking up. It is manifest in so many ways, such as faultfinding, gossiping, backbiting, murmuring, living beyond our means, envying, coveting, withholding gratitude and praise that might lift another, and being unforgiving and jealous.” (Link)

Then came the Strike Two:

Quick as a wink, I had turned my feelings of inferiority and envy into feelings of superiority and mockery – and I had never even met these people.

C.S. Lewis nailed me on that one, “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. … It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest.”  (link)

Then, as I walked to the parking lot with my son, Strike Three:

I taught him to be judgmental and to mock others.

David H. Burton nailed me on that one, “Teaching virtuous traits begins in the home with parents who care and set the example. A good parental example encourages emulation; a poor example gives license to the children to disregard the parents’ teachings and even expand the poor example. A hypocritical example destroys credibility.” (link)

In conclusion, it is apparent to me that I need to work on my bowling game, as does my son, but more importantly, I need to work on my life game, because I am still throwing spiritual gutterballs on a regular basis.







  1. I am curious about another aspect.
    What do you do when somebody that is “all hat” makes themselves the center of the conversation of a topic in which you are the expert, and everyone else knows it, except for Mr. Hat? Other than shaking your head and moving on to another conversation?
    I have often shaken my head when it comes to testimony building stories, such as the miraculous preservation of the Logan temple (built between 1877-1884) during the invasion of Johnsons’ army (1857) and especially stories of the Mormon Battalion.
    On the one hand, it is good not embarrass them. But at the same time, do we let untruths be perpetuated?

  2. I am totally impressed with your bowling score! Mine always tops out less than 135. Makes me wonder if those fancy balls were drilled very badly. But I am even more impressed with your recognition of your sins and the need for repentance. God says he will forgive us when we repent, even as often as we repent. And for most of us, it is a daily need. Thanks for the reminder. And have lots of fun at the lanes with your son.

  3. Life is an ongoing journey of refining, isn’t it? And, I love the way you find the spiritual examples in so many day to day life experiences. Thanks!

  4. I have good proprioception, a long word but useful to describe my odd ability to bowl, throw baskets or shoot a slingshot with better accuracy than expected from a fairly sedentary old woman. I seldom engage in sports, but when I do I get a giggle out of the surprised faces of the ‘young-uns’ when I make a strike, hit a target or make a basket. My lack of stamina and enthusiasm limit this indulgence.

  5. Nice work, both with the realization of what went wrong, and with your sharing with us.

    Way to pick up the spare!

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