Wednesday, 21 November 2012

the dude abides

After spending a fun evening at a genuine American-style bowling-alley with friends in a neighbouring village, I was inspired to fulfill some of my self-imposed continuing-education class requirements with a training presentation called Introduction to Bowling! I thought I might acquire some trade secrets that might give me an advantage next time, like which ball colour is repelled from the gutter or magnetically attracted to the pins, which shoes are the lucky ones. The material, however, was mostly dry and concerned with safety and the dangers of not respecting the pin-setter and ball-return machines. There was one pretty interesting part that gave a quick survey of the game's history.
One slide, with little in the way of explanation, posed, “You may know that Martin Luther translated the Bible into German, but did you also know the Church Reformer basically invented the modern game of bowling? Luther thought nine pins were ideal.” Wirklich? That sounded to me like one of those nice but apocryphal tales that people attribute to George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, so I had to investigate further. It turns out since medieval times, cloistered monks ritually stoned totems, carving wooden clubs into pagan deities and tried to bowl them over. Eventually, this test of one's character made its way to the rest of the congregation, and peasants, who carried around a beam (which was the style at the time, I guess) called a Kegel (hence the German name for the game), started to repeat the monks' challenge with their own totems in the nave. A ball replaced rocks for safety purposes and the ritual evolved into a game. Martin Luther in fact was an avid bowler, having his own personal gaming pitch and later indoor lane, and turns out did write, among other things, the first rule book on bowling. Luther's influence probably did save the sport from obscurity, too, since it had been banned several places for promoting idleness among the working-classes.