"There are two types of people in this world: Those who like Neil Diamond, and those who don't. My ex-wife loves him." - Bob Wiley, What About Bob
In the past decade, a seismic shift has taken place in the world of bowling alley construction. Trendy, bonkers bowling alleys like North Bowl and Lucky Strike have opened up, giving Philadelphia new venues to participate in this ridiculously stupid and super-fun sport. These new alleys combine clubbing with athletics, allowing degenerate weirdos to rub elbows with the social elite. The game is compromised, but the cleavage is increased. Frankly, I'm not sure how I feel about it.
I have spent many nights (and afternoons) in these alleys and have come to see both the positive and negative aspects of the new trend. And while I recognize that we don't necessarily have to choose which type of lanes are better -- because different people are into different things -- this is sports after all, and in sports there has to be one winner, and one pathetic, mustache-having loser. So let's dive deep into these new bowling arenas and decide which type of alley is best: Traditional vs. Trendy.
Ever since 1874, when Herman Kleinsdorfen opened up the first 10-pin alley outside of Poughkeepsie, NY (I completely made that up), bowling has been marketed as a social event. Whether you're rolling with friends, family, or a dishrag you found on Match.com, the game is always played alongside the general public. Even at the quietest, emptiest bowling alleys, you may have to share a lane with complete and total strangers. This can either be perfectly fine (if your neighbors know not to walk up during your approach) or a total nightmare (if you're seated next to ugly people).
At the trendy joints, these folks tend to be a bit much. They sit around with their white teeth and their gelled hair and can often be found in the bathrooms ripping lines of cocaine like a Colombian warlord. The women are ridiculously hot, but most have little to no interest in trying to break a hundred. For the common schlub who is used to rolling alongside bowzers, this can be VERY DISTRACTING, but can also be their only chance to smell a woman with really clean hair. The smarter (read: creepier) bowlers use these opportunities to take secret snapshots of ladies with their phones and later show them off to their fantasy football buddies.
Traditional alleys operate mostly as family establishments. Lanes are filled with simple, hard-working people who repeatedly scream at their children to "GET YOUR GODDAMN HANDS AWAY FROM THE BALL RETURN." There are also plenty of young lovers on dates, regulars, and disgusting, sweaty teenagers who fire bowling balls into the guard rails like a bunch of filthy animals.
What the freak is wrong with teenagers? Why do they have to ruin everything? I was once on pace to break 200 when a group of snot-nosed kids thought it'd be a good idea to roll their balls after doing running, jumping spin-kicks on their approach. Every time they let the ball fly, they would scream as loud as they could. Just screaming. Not even words. Just sounds, cranked out by their pubescent, blossoming vocal chords. It was TERRIFYING. And yet, this was fun to them. One of 'em, after launching himself off the ball return, accidentally kicked a 14-pound ball out of his own hand and almost blasted me in the throat. I lost focus, melted down and ended up crapping out on the last few frames. Meanwhile, the screaming dipshit rolled like three straight strikes thanks to his Bruce Lee Kamikaze throwing style.
I can't believe I'm about to say this ...
If you're above the age of 26 and are planning on leaving your couch for the evening, nothing is more important when choosing your destination than ambiance (or more specifically, noise level). 95% of all of my life's decisions are based on how loud or quiet an establishment is. The trendy alleys are LOUD. Music blares through the speakers and it is nearly impossible to hear whatever anyone is saying. (I guess this could be seen as a good thing, as people are generally really boring to talk to, but it always makes me uncomfortable to sip my beverage while trying to nod and maintain eye contact with a person when I have no idea what he or she is talking about.) Then again, trendy alleys do have comfortable couches and cool lights and weird stairs that lead to secret lanes, so I guess that's kinda cool?
Traditional jawns are MASSIVE, echoing with the sound of pins crashing and video games bleeping. THIS IS WHAT BOWLING ALLEYS SHOULD SOUND LIKE. Plus, in between turns you can go for a stroll and disappear for 45 minutes playing Skill Crane while everyone in your party freaks out and threatens to skip your turn.
Food and Drink
North Bowl's tator tots are BOMB and come with like 37 different dipping sauces. There is nothing -- and I mean nothing -- more exciting in this world than dipping sauces. Also, their tomato basil soup with grilled cheese skewers are fantastic. Then again, WHO GOES TO EAT AT A BOWLING ALLEY? Just give me a cherry soda, a Snickers bar and a few slices of cardboard crust pizza, because I am there to ROLL goddammit, I am there to roll! Although, eating is REALLY FUN and North Bowl's mac and cheese is delicious.
Back to the cherry soda, real quick. How amazing are those old bowling alley soda machines that spit out seltzer water into a plastic cup and then mix it with a splash of cherry syrup. Every time the cup gets to around half-full, I start to panic and think, "Oh God, they're out of syrup! It's just gonna give me straight seltz!" and then wammo! the red liquid shoots out and the soda to sugar ratio ends up absolutely perfect. For anyone reading this who is under the age of 30, I imagine you have no idea what I'm talking about, but oh baby if you did, if you did.
Advantage: Who cares?!
It's not that I necessarily want to buy a black, leather bowling glove from a vending machine, but I would at least like to have the option of buying a black, leather bowling glove from a vending machine.
Not to get all Dateline NBC on North Bowl, but have you SEEN the woofers on the bartenders there? WOWZERS. I get it, they're bartenders and bartenders work for tips, but even the ladies who dish out shoes are out of control.
At the traditional alleys, an employee named Cliff is obviously gonna be better at unjamming the gutters, but omg Cliff can't compete with the G.L.O.B! (Gorgeous Ladies Of Bowling)
Forget all the nonsense you read above, this is the only category that matters. BOWLING IS IMPORTANT. True rollers don't strain our wrist muscles so that we can oogle women or be seen in our new slacks, we're there to mark each frame and get them turkeys! Bowling alleys should have a variety of ball sizes and slick lanes for lubrication and I did not intend for this sentence to sound so homoerotic. The average bowling night out should also reward you with at least 86 high-fives. This is a fact. A medical fact. Unfortunately, I have found that hipsters tend to be way too cool to acknowledge how dope it is when you pick up a pin-sweeping spare.
No matter how much lipstick you put on a pig, it's still a pig. And so bowling will always be a dumb, smelly game that is best enjoyed with other idiots in the armpits of America. Bowling alleys should be bright and booming. They should be filled with uncomfortable, springy swivel chairs. They should be run by dudes (or ladies) with mustaches (and I mean real mustaches, not ironic ones). There should be no time limit on games, allowing you to let your sweaty hand twinkle over a cool fan for as long as you want. I appreciate creative entrepreneurs trying to sex up the game, but this aggression will not stand.
If I am ever given the opportunity to choose where I get to roll, I will pick the traditional alleys vs. the trendy jawns ANY DAY OF THE WEEK.
Except if you're gonna make me go to some shit palace in South Jersey.
I am not rolling there.
Follow the Evster @TVMWW.