Tuesday, January 22, 2013

What Time Is It? Not Now, I'm Bowling

Travel and deadlines and work and death being what they are, it took me a little longer than expected to get back to writing about bowling cards as promised, but a promise is a promise and miles to go before I sleep and all that, so I’m back, better late than never, with some spewage on cards from the 1990 Collect-A-Card Kingpins bowling-card set.

#48 Ron Williams: Ever since I was a kid I’ve had a thing about cards of players wearing watches. Maybe it stems from the 1970 Topps Matt Snell card, which very clearly shows the bruising fullback in full pads sporting an Accutron. To me this means one of two things: watches were even more of a fashion accessory then than they are now, or Matt Snell is not really preparing to strap on his helmet and plow over Jim Cheyunski. To me, this discovery, when paired with the 1966 Philly Gum card showing Jumbo Jim Parker clearly wearing his Colts championship ring, was a there-is-no-Easter-bunny moment. I could buy the '64 Philly cards showing the Cleveland Browns posed in an impound lot; this was Cleveland in the ‘60s, after all. But I could never wrap my brain around the idea that these weren’t gameday, gametime, just-before-the-battle-mother shots. And if watches and rings were okay, couldn’t Joe Namath have left on his full-length mink?
Here’s the other thing about watches: Assuming you’re an athlete and not a manager (and even then I’m vaguely suspicious), why the hell do you need to know what time it is? You’re playing a freaking game. You’re done when you’re done. What reason would Ron Williams have for looking at his watch between balls in the sixth frame and saying, “Uh-oh. Gotta wrap this up. My Fantastic Sam’s appointment is at 4:30” – unless he’s trying to throw the match?
Tennis players, especially female tennis players, are the worst for this. They’re notorious for wearing watches. Why? You ever see Anna Kournikova look at her watch? I realize there’s an I-only-have-so-many-ways-that-I-can-show-I-make-more-playing-this-point-than-you-make-in-a-year thing going on, but if that’s the case, wear platinum panties or something. But ditch the watch.
On the other hand, the fireplace with the faux brickwork and the doubly faux oak paneling behind Williams are sweet. Kinda gives you the impression that he’s bowling in his living room. And he wouldn’t need to know what the hell time it is there, either.

#65 Glenn Allison: I can cut Allison slack for wearing a watch, because if I don’t cut him slack he’s going to wipe the alley with me and use the leftovers for chitlins. It’s obvious Allison spent a lot of time in his younger years bowling with sailors, on the docks, in Calcutta, and at Corregidor, and maybe on the Bataan Death March. Who cares if he was only 14 in 1944? If anyone could pull off the elusive teenage-bowling-phenom-war-hero-stevedore troika, it’s Allison.

#99 Charlie Tapp: Aviator glasses and science-teacher mustache aside, the troubling thing about Tapp is his haveily branded prosthetic forearm. “PW”? We are looking at the very real possibility that Charlie Tapp is using someone else’s prosthetic forearm, and who would want to do that? It has to be incredibly slimy and disgusting inside, especially since it looks like it‘s made out of half-inch steerhide. I know what my son’s hockey gloves are like after a couple of practices, and they’re not a pleasant place to be unless you’re a bacillus. The other question that follows naturally from the first is: If Charlie Tapp is wearing PW’s prosthetic forearm, how does PW feel about it? Does PW walk around with empty space between his elbow and his fingers, like one of those semi-invisible Disney characters from the ‘60s when the invisibility starts to wear off? Charlie Tapp, you provide more questions than answers.

#17 Bob Handley: What I want to know is: What happened to pinky rings? Watch any movie from the 1940s, and I guarantee that if you look closely enough one of the male leads is wearing a pinky ring. Cary Grant wore a pinky ring in His Girl Friday. So did Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca. Fred Astaire wore a pinky ring while he danced with Ginger Rogers. I’m betting James Cagney and George Raft didn’t leave the house without their pinky rings. Going through my dad’s stuff, he has a lion’s-head ring that could only have been a pinky ring, and he was a Kiwanian, for crying out loud. Today the only people who wear pinky rings run art galleries and wear black turtlenecks in August.
Bob Handley is wearing a pinky ring in the 1990 Kingpins set, which tells me that pinky rings went out of fashion in 1962. But if the sign behind him really says, “Beer 30 cents after 9 a.m.,” maybe the pinky ring is the right call after all.

#53 Mark Williams: The last time I saw this hair and smoldering look it was on Jennifer Grey.

#62 Billy Walden: Bowlers live on that special intersection between athletes and mere performers, like golfers or snowmobile-flippers or birthday-cake jugglers or slackline mimes or anyone who’s appeared on TLC. There’s no question in my mind which side of the intersection Billy Walden is standing on.

#96 Les Schissler: Speaking of which, the Kingpins set chronicles the transition of bowling from a sport inhabited by bowlers – that is to say, keglers, that is to say, guys for whom the beer frame was every frame, until their personal frame became a beer frame – to a sport inhabited by young, hairy people with prosthetic forearms who bowl because American Idol hasn’t been invented yet. There is no question the roots of Les Schissler’s raising run deep, down to Moonlight Madness leagues in basement alleys with two lanes and pin boys and lanes grooved like Booker T. and the MG’s. Les Schissler did not set out to find fame through bowling; Les Schissler set out to bowl, and fame found him because of how he bowled. It’s the old nature-versus-nurture argument: I have no question there are now bowl-with-the-pros camps, where prospective scholarship bowlers can learn the finer points of the back-pocket hook with class-2A PBA qualifiers. I also have no question that those camps would have taken Les Schissler and messed with his stride, delivery and follow-through until he looked like every other tour bowler, only without the results. However Les Schissler bowled – and I have no idea how that is – he bowled that way because he figured out that was the best way for him to bowl, and he made a damn good living as a result.[1] Is it in any way better to be a clone of someone else’s idea of perfect form, and mediocre?
Of course, this reminds me of mucilage. I was watching an episode of That Girl the other day (don't worry; it's not a habit), and Marlo Thomas was using mucilage to paste items in a scrapbook. It struck me sometime later that there was a rather severe dividing line with mucilage. There was a time when mucilage was in general circulation and there was a time when mucilage was not in general circulation, but there was not a time when mucilage was on the outs or falling from favor. There were just Mucilage Days followed by No-Mucilage Days.
The same with bowling. There were Bowlers-As-Bowlers Days and there were Bowlers-As-Psuedo-Athletes Days, but outside of this set there were not days when Mark Williams and Les Schissler sat around the fire like brothers.
This makes bowling different from other sports, and not really better.

#58 David Husted: Speaking of pseudo-athletes, let’s look at the arguments pro and con in response to the question, “Is David Husted a pseudo-athlete?”
First, the pro:
1)     He’s under 50.
2)     Several NFL quarterbacks, NASCAR drivers, and PGA golfers sported similar hair.[2]
3)     There may be actual muscles under his shirt.
Now the con:
1)     No athlete, pseudo or otherwise, not even Rocco Mediate, ever performed in a pink shirt with “La Mode” embroidered on the chest.
2)     I’m fairly certain he just dropped his beer after watching the last play of Super Bowl XXV.
3)     His belt matches his pants.
4)     He’s wearing a watch.
I’m guessing the cons carry the day, but I wonder: If Husted isn’t a pseudo-athlete, what is he? A pseudo-pseudo-athlete? A roller-discoer? Or Les Schissler’s wingman?

Important decisions like these take time. Tune in next time for the results.

[1] The fact that he stole his glove from Mr. Fantastic probably didn’t hurt, either.
[2] Though it was more commonly found on Democratic presidential candidates.

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