This experience bowled me over

Father Mark Goldasich is the pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Tonganoxie. He has been editor of the Leaven since 1989.

by Father Mark Goldasich

As the Easter song says, “The strife is o’er, the battle done.”

Even though we’re still in Lent, I was humming this song last Monday night. Back on Sept. 21, I wrote a column about bowling at the Royal Crest Lanes in Lawrence with a Knights of Columbus team from my parish.

Well, my season is now over, even though the team still has another couple of weeks to go.

Just about every other Monday night, I did battle with the pins and, at last, the strife is o’er. Bowling is an odd game. My scores on March 25 were 135, 134 and 196. Fast-forward a week later and those scores were 143, 155 and 129. Same bowler, same ball, same lanes: no consistency!

I ended up with a 140 average for the year, which I was pleased with, because I’d not bowled in a league for decades.

As one of my fellow Knights commented (after a particularly frustrating night), “It’s just a game, it’s just a game. . . . A cruel game, but just a game!”

Even on those infuriating nights when the pins refused to fall, I have to admit I had a lot of fun.

The fun was due to the camaraderie — not only with my fellow Knights, but with many of the people that we bowled against. It was a mixed league, consisting of men and women of various ages. And as the weeks went on, more and more faces became familiar and a number even became friends.

It was a very different atmosphere than this sports story:

The coach called one of his 9-year-old baseball players aside and asked, “Do you understand what cooperation is? What a team is?”

“Yes, Coach,” replied the boy.

“Do you understand that what matters is we win or lose as a team?” the coach added.

The boy nodded yes.

The coach then continued, “I’m sure you know that when an out is called, you shouldn’t argue, curse, attack the umpire or call him a stupid jerk or dumb idiot. Do you understand that?”

Again, the boy nodded yes.

“And when I take you out of the game so that another boy gets a chance to play,” the coach said, “it’s not good sportsmanship to call your coach a space cadet or ask him where he has his head stuck, is it?”

“No, Coach,” answered the boy.

“Good,” said the coach. “Now, go over there and explain all that to your Grandma!”

Now, I’m not saying that each bowler didn’t try his or her best each Monday, but we were all aware that we weren’t on the Pro Bowlers Tour. What that meant practically is that we could cheer not only for our own teammates, but for the other team as well. It was commonplace to see people — no matter which team — complimenting a nice strike or spare, or high-fiving or fist-bumping one another after a particularly good shot.

In other words, bridges were built, not walls.

And there was always plenty of laughter and good-natured ribbing. For me, this is where the faith is authentically lived out — in our common, everyday interactions with others.

I couldn’t tell you who was Catholic or not on the teams we bowled against — or even if they had a religion. But what I did know is that they were human beings. And I wanted to treat them, as I wanted to be treated — first and foremost, with respect.

I mentioned in a February column here that it always warmed my heart when the other teams mentioned that they enjoyed bowling against us. For me, that meant it was a successful night, no matter how I or my fellow Knights bowled.

In a world where sports can sometimes be so competitive and divisive, it’s great to know that there can be another, positive side, particularly on the local level.

As spring and summer sports get underway, consider joining a team. Whether indoor or outdoor, sports might be a prime place not only to exercise your body, but your spiritual side as well.

By the way, if you’re wondering, as of this writing, our Knights bowling team is in fourth place . . . from the bottom. But just wait till next season!

Leave a Reply