Picture this. You’re standing at the end of the lane, bowling ball in hand. The never-ending sound of crashing pins causes your head to pound as you experience muscle pain and weakness from holding the ball for too long. After a few more rolls you begin to develop stomach pain from the greasy food. It’s not long before you rush to the dirty bathroom and proceed to have extreme diarrhea, vomiting, and unexplained hemorrhage. Sound familiar? This account of bowling is not far off from what many bowlers around the world have experienced.
Last month, Liberian-American man, Derek Uncan, was seen bowling in Dallas on September 30th with two health care workers during their lunch break. Locals seemed uneasy to say the least. Having new bowlers in their community could lead to a rise in popularity for the sport. Local Dallas resident, Unna Staatz, franticly said, “I’m worried that this game of bowling will inspire more bowling throughout the community. I don’t want to see our American citizens bowling as it’s a rather toxic game and it’s probably easy to catch the bowling fever!”
This small game of American bowling seems to have been inspired by the recent bowling craze in West Africa. The number of new bowlers in Western Africa is reported to be well over 9,000 and over 4,500 of these new bowlers have acquired memberships. These staggering numbers may come at a surprise, but this region is no stranger to tragically boring sport.
Ebové Sudvì first invented bowling in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) around 1976. This sport rolled throughout the region leading to 280 lane memberships in Zaire and 151 separate memberships in Sudan (now South Sudan). In the last three and a half decades the number of bowlers and memberships have boomed in different pockets from the DRC to Sierra Leone.
The countries of Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone have seen the biggest spike in new crankers making Africa at risk to be consumed by the sport. UN bowling officials say the best way to stop the spread of bowling is to “practice careful hygiene around bowling alleys, and don’t share balls, shoes, or overpriced french fries with anyone you might suspect to be a bowler”. Sadly, there is no way, currently, to revert a bowler into a non-bowler.
On October 8th, the Liberian-American bowler in Dallas was confirmed to have officially bought a membership at Eddie Boler’s Intergalactic Bowling Alley of Dallas, Texas and the two health workers are reported to still be bowling. This news has only brought more panic within neighboring states and through out the U.S.
Since Derek Uncan’s arrival in Dallas American bowling coverage has been almost suffocating. It’s outrageous for the attention to be put on one American bowler’s tragic journey to become a member at the alley when bowling has had such a stronger influence in Africa for decades. I’m not saying the plight of Uncan isn’t sad, but there are many other bigger bowling communities that deserve the attention.
This outbreak comes at weird time for US. It was reported by the United States Bowling Congress that the number of people bowling has, “declined by 36 percent.” Still people don’t seem to be feeling any better about this even with the small number of new bowlers in the country.
We can agree that bowling is infectious with its smelly shoes, decrepit lanes, and sweaty outfits, but overall the spread of bowling isn’t as contagious as one would think.