Some years ago, sociologist Robert Putnam's book Bowling Alone caused a minor stir. Putnam observed that by the mid-1990's, the number of Americans identifying themselves as recreational bowlers had reached an all-time high, but the number of people bowling in organized leagues had dropped to record lows. Bowling alone, argues Putnam, is a metaphor for Balkanized America, each of us pursuing his or her own path, no one willing to be part of a team, to work for a common good.
I don't really want to talk about his conclusions. Suffice to say that I concur.
(Sort of on this subject, I had my first encounter with Reform Mormonism this week. Sheesh! Talk about depressing. They reject organized religion in general and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in particular; they deny that ANY scripture is anything more than interesting writing; they assert that Priesthood authority is non-existent and the notion of a Final Judgment foolishness; they reject the ordinances of the Temple and deny the necessity of performing those ordinances on behalf of the dead; and they claim that the only proper place for worship is at home, with your own family. On the other hand, they have some vague good feeling about the culture they grew up in, so they assert their right to call themselves Mormons.
T.S. Elliott writes that Hell is oneself, Hell is Alone, the other people there merely projections. The Reformed Mormon's navel gazing spiritual narcissism, all this sitting in your La-Z-Boy, sending good thoughts to the Universe stuff, seems pretty Hellish to me. It seems like a pretty elaborate way to get out of teaching Primary, or accepting a home teaching assignment. Shine on, you crazy diamonds!)
Anyway, bowling is what's on my mind. I have been keeping a photo collection of World Leaders Bowling. Herewith, my analysis:
Harry Truman. This photo is very clearly posed, much like old baseball card photos were posed. His body isn't squared to the lane, and given his stance, he should be releasing the ball. And he's wearing a suit! A three-piece suit! With wingtips! Who wants to bowl with a guy in a three-piece suit? Not me. On the other hand, Harry looks determined: he wins points for the ol' raised eyebrow grimace. CONCLUSION: This is a tough old bird, the kind of guy who has the bomb, and is not afraid to use it.
George W. Bush. Form: Excellent. Visage: Steely and Determined. Clothing: Bowling Appropriate. CONCLUSION: This man is a fraud, a cheat. He's not bowling; he's playing candlepins. That's a game for old people and New Englanders, and while they claim it takes a special skill set to master it, true bowlers know that's the bunk. This guy is throwing a two pound ball and making us think it's a 16 pounder. This is the kind of dude who would lie about WMDs, just so he could blow up Iraq. If only we had seen the warning signs!
Vladimir Putin, defacto Tsar of Russia. Again with the business clothes -- what is with these guys? He's got an interesting thing going with the variegated ball, but it appears he's slinging it sidearm, like a German solider tossing one of those "potato masher" grenades. CONCLUSION: Brute power, as befits the former head of the KGB. Unfortunately, it's far more likely that he uses his ball to smash truculent Chechens, than to do any serious kegling.
Barack Obama. Yes, I know. He plays basketball (against hand-chosen opponents). He runs. He shimmers with charisma and optimism. I see him bowl, and all I think is, "Revenge of the Nerds, baby. Revenge of the Nerds."
Which leads us to at once the most troubling and the most fascinating of our Bowling World Leaders:
Richard Milhous Nixon. The form? Impeccable. The clothes? Magnificent. The ball? Bold, yet tasteful. This is it, folks, the complete package. If fitness for leadership were based solely on bowling technique, this man would be King of The World.
Dick, what went wrong?