The daily grind. The rat race. The 9-to-5. In my mind, these terms all have one very important thing in common: escape. Everywhere you turn, whether it be the newspapers, TV, or just eavesdropping on ordinary conversation in public, people often talk about disliking their job. Even people who like their actual jobs may despise the circumstances under which it must be performed. And when it comes to vacation…well, they are eager to escape. Escape from all the trappings of normalcy and find a way to rest and recharge.
As a professional bowler, I find that my life understandably does not resemble the majority of working society in the slightest. Instead of taking a vacation during the Tour’s one week hiatus, I headed home. Instead of finding a way to escape normalcy, I desperately sought out a way to dive headfirst back into it. Instead of wanting to eat out and sample local cuisine, I wanted a home-cooked meal. What we go through to compete as professional bowlers may seem fascinating and thrilling if all you see is the Sunday show on ESPN, but that is a 90-minute glimpse into seven days of work. You also get to see a handful of players full of excitement without having to witness the frustration and disappointment of those who already lost. For every person who advances to the finals, fifteen more have stomped off, banged their head against the wall, and shifted their focus to the next week. That is our lifestyle. That is our daily grind.
Ok, I am abruptly switching gears and going back to discussing a sense of normalcy. I hate snow. Let me clarify…I hate snow when it is either, A) covering my car so it looks like a giant snow cone, or B) swirling so frantically downward that I can’t walk outside, let alone find my Toyota snow cone. To its credit, snow actually does have a few redeeming qualities. It is fun to look at, it enhances the feel of the holiday season, and it can be thrown in neatly formed little balls at your target of choice. But the more time I spend around snow, the more I understand why birds and retirees migrate south for the winter. And this is part of why I spent my week off at home in Phoenix, where Mother Nature spares us the white stuff and graces us with what other parts of the country call “summer.”
Upon arriving home, I was welcomed by friends and family and instantly felt like my world had returned to the ordinary. That is, until the next morning. When I left for Wichita in October, my wife and I had only been in our new home for two weeks; enough time to get settled, but not enough time to memorize the location of important items. Like kitchenware. Finding the cereal bowls took me through two cabinets. Finding silverware? Three drawers. Lucky for me the panic eased up after breakfast and I headed into the den where the complications were much less severe. In the den I only had to contend with a skyscraper of mail and a newly broken printer. Ahhhh, how nice it was to be home.
As Monday progressed (note: progress is a very relative term to use when you fully expect your day to consist of not leaving the house), I managed to begin unpacking my luggage and removing clothes I knew I would no longer need on Tour, such as shorts. Shorts are the not-so-lengthy versions of slacks and jeans that most everybody is familiar with but probably hasn’t seen since the latter part of August. In Arizona, however, shorts are year-round fashion, and I wasted no time embracing that tradition. I know this may all sound trivial, but casting aside my jeans was an integral part of feeling like I was back to normal.
The rest of my week was rather uneventful, but certainly a lot of fun. My in-laws were in town all week (coincidentally, for some vacation time and to escape the snowy plains of Alberta), and we managed to sneak in a round of golf and a homemade karaoke jam session. On one of the days my wife was free from the shackles of work, we also spent an afternoon exploring the town of Cave Creek. My main motive for mentioning this side trip is because this was the one time while home that I truly felt I was on vacation. Cave Creek is an “Old West” town away from the bustle of Phoenix with plenty of unique shops (tourist traps) and art galleries (more expensive tourist traps). Perhaps the highlight was the Cave Creek Coffee Company
, where we scored a few great cups of java just because it tasted great, and not because we needed it to stay warm (as you can see in the headline picture above, paying special attention to our attire).
But what about bowling? Doesn’t a professional bowler need to stay sharp?
The answer is yes, I needed to bowl this week to remain sharp for the inevitable return to Tour in Chicago. In a strange twist of fate, however, I got a lot more out of my practice sessions than a tune-up. I practiced twice this past week, once on Monday and another time on Thursday. I was admittedly frustrated coming home from Taylor, but tried to remain positive, knowing that there is plenty of season left in front of me. After bowling on Monday, my coach reminded me that I needed to bowl for the love of the game. Clichéd, I know…but also true.
Working on angles, body positions, drilling balls, changing surfaces, adapting to transition, bowling pro-ams, and signing autographs are all various parts of what is included in the “job description” for a professional bowler. Lacing up your shoes, breathing deeply, clearing the thumb cleanly, and hearing the pins crash are the parts of the game that you have to love. All the preparation is work, but the actual art of making a great shot is fun. And that is what I needed to remember. The thought didn’t fully soak in until Thursday when I practiced with the Arizona State team after league. When with the team I usually end up bowling less and spend more time giving pointers and teaching a few tricks. But this week some of them taught me. While we practiced I became absorbed in their element, a place where I once was (I bowled for Arizona State in college, and it wasn’t very long ago). These kids were preparing for a tournament, but they were enjoying themselves, and it started to rub off on me. In their minds there was no mortgage, car payment, or utility bills…just the chance to feel the thrill of winning or at least the thrill of trying to win. I don’t think I have ever lost my passion for the game of bowling. It’s just that sometimes it gets hidden behind the job description and needs to be dragged back to the forefront. Oh, and the college tournament? They won.
Well, that’s just about all the rambling I have for this edition of Andrew’s Angle. Without a tournament this week, it was rather difficult to find a “first” that related to our season or the PBA’s 50th
Anniversary. I can tell you, though, that on my first
break from Tour in a month, I experienced quite a few personal firsts. On the lighter side, it was the first time I hit a golf ball into every
single body of water on the golf course and the first week all year that my family did not have to listen to me complain or rant about bowling (kudos to them for their patience). More seriously, I think it was the first time all year I truly
realized how lucky I am to play a game for a living. I am looking forward to a fresh start in Vernon Hills and to finish off the first half of the season strongly. And for anyone who may be bitter about the “shorts” commentary, rest assured that I am safely back in the clutches of Chicago’s sub-Arctic wind chill and covered in multiple layers of clothing, with no shorts in sight. Thanks again for reading, and remember that you can reach me with comments at Andrew@andrewcainbowling.com
and check out pictures coming soon at www.andrewcainbowling.com