Along with the presidency, President-elect Barack Obama has inherited the bowling lanes in the White House. If his experience during the primaries is any indication, Obama’s bowling game needs serious work, and the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) is ready to help.
Everybody knows Obama’s first love is basketball, but with a few pointers from the world’s best bowlers, there’s no reason America’s 44th president could not continue the rich history of bowling in the White House.
Obama, who played two hours of pickup basketball on Tuesday in Chicago just hours before he was elected, was last seen bowling on the campaign trail, although doing it rather poorly.
During the primaries, Obama bowled a 37 over seven frames on March 29 at Pleasant Valley Recreation Center in Altoona, Pa.
Perhaps that’s why he told late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel soon after: “I hear there's a bowling alley and obviously that hasn't gone too well. So we're getting rid of the bowling alley and replacing it with a basketball court in the White House.”
Bowling and basketball were linked earlier this year when New Orleans Hornets star Chris Paul hosted the PBA Chris Paul Celebrity Invitational in Winston-Salem, N.C, which aired on ESPN in October. Paul, who is an avid bowler, teamed with 2007-08 PBA Player of the Year Chris Barnes to finish second in the event to champions LeBron James and Jason Couch.
PBA VP/COO Tom Clark thinks it would be a mistake to get rid of the bowling lanes, said to have gotten its share of use when Bill Clinton was in office.
“Once the family is settled in, the PBA Tour will be pleased and anxious to send some of our top male and female professional bowlers in to give lessons to the President Elect and first lady on the White House bowling lanes,” Clark said. “When the Obamas learn the basics of the game, they’ll enjoy it more and they’ll have hours of fun on the lanes for many years.”
“I have one bowling tip for Obama: take a lesson from me,” said Billy Oatman, the first African American on the exempt PBA Tour. “Call Billy Oatman and he’ll get a lesson.”
PBA veteran Norm Duke said he’d be honored to teach Obama the finer points of bowling. Duke became the only man in PBA history to win three straight majors, a feat he accomplished at the 2008-09 World Championships in Wichita, Kan. two weeks ago.
“I saw the clip on YouTube and I have some tips for Obama,” said Duke. “Obama’s been in a suit and tie too long. He needs to get some athletic apparel and a bowling ball that fits his hand. He needs to work on hitting the head pin because he didn’t do that very well (on the YouTube clip).”
Some facts Obama should consider before he decides to remove the lanes:
-- Seventy million Americans bowl at least once a year.
-- More than two million bowl in leagues.
-- The Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour is in its 50th Anniversary being on TV and about one million people a week watch the pros.
Bowling and U.S. Presidents have a long history.
According to the web site www.whitehousemuseum.org, bowling lanes were first built in the ground floor of the White House West Wing as a birthday gift for President Harry S. Truman in 1947 (in the location of the present-day Situation Room). Not much of a bowler himself, Truman did allow his staff to start a league. The lanes were moved to the Old Executive Office Building in 1955.
It wasn’t until President Richard Nixon came into office that the lanes began to get some serious use. Nixon and wife Pat were avid bowlers and had a new one-lane alley built in an underground workspace. Not only did Nixon bowl but was known to hold staff meetings in the basement area, as well.
The Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour is in Hammond, Ind., this week for the Lake County Indiana Golden Anniversary Championship with the live finals airing on ESPN Sunday, Nov. 9 at 1 p.m. ET. ESPN on-air color commentator Randy Pedersen plans to break down Obama’s form and offer some tips during the live show.
To see President-elect Barack Obama in action on the lanes, please click here.