As a life long bowler, it pains me to have to write the title of this article. Even in this day and age, there are still those among us who question the athletic grace that is an experienced bowler.
The word “sport,” as defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary, is “a contest or game in which people do certain physical activities according to a specific set of rules and compete against each other.” With that definition in mind, there are multiple aspects to bowling that definitely make it a sport, yet admittedly, there are also several aspects that might make people second guess. I’m here to argue that it is in fact a sport, and a great one at that. Here are some common arguments for, and against the question of the day: Is bowling a sport?
Point 1 against bowling: The drinking aspect.
You could certainly start your argument against bowling being a sport by pointing out that player routinely drink while playing. While that is not a characteristic of a traditional sport, I’d argue that makes it even more of a sport.
The alcohol is just another challenge. Keeping precise control of a bowling ball after several beers is the sign of a true athlete.
Point 1 for bowling: Skill is a huge factor.
Similar to golf, the most powerful bowler does not always win. Bowling can involve a huge amount of skill, as the best players all spin the ball. I think a perfect example of the skill involved comes from a bowling league I joined when I was in middle school. My friends and I all played the traditional american sports (basketball, football, baseball), and were big guys for our age. In this league, we finished second – but a significant distance behind a team of girls 2 years younger than us. Each of those players used heavy spin. The fact that you can develop your skills and improve makes this a sport.
Point 2 against bowling: The Recreational Aspect
Bowling is often played in a very casual atmosphere that hurts its reputation as a sport. It can be a little tough to get ultra-competitive when there is a 6-year-old’s birthday party going on in the lane next to you.
This is all about who you are bowling with. If you have competitive enough friends, bowling with them can still be intense. If you want to make it more interesting, you can have the loser buy the next round (or games or beer). Bowling is competitive, you just have to make it that way.
Point 2 for bowling: Bowling leagues
Once you’ve played in a bowling league, you will realize that bowling is a sport just like any other mainstream sport. There is the intensity, rivalry, and pressure that we all love about sports. This is a sport you can still improve at, even as your overall athletic ability declines.
Point 3 for bowling: Mental toughness
Often in bowling, the biggest difference maker in your score can be the ability to pick up spares. This can be as simple as hitting a single remaining pin. This is a really simple task – until the is the pressure of competition. The mental focus required by bowling is an underrated aspect.
Even if bowling doesn’t push you physically in the way many other sports do, the reasons above show that it is still a sport.