Strike & Spare
5700 Western Ave.
It was 9:33 p.m., and the line stretched to the door. "Hey, you can't be on your phone while you are in line man," said a guy standing in front of me in line, watching me type away on my evernote app. I laughed and grinned and he quickly said "I'm kidding, man." I tried to crack a joke about phones being like an addictive drug but it fell on silence. The line was for Strike and Spare Family Fun Center's "All you can Bowl" for $12, which started at 9 p.m. I made my way past the line and received a little more heckling from the guy I had spoken to.
As soon as I heard the first strike, my mind immediately flashed back to the movie "The Big Lebowski." I scanned around to see if a lonesome cowboy was sitting at the bar, but to no avail. It was a mix of kids allowed to stay up late, and parents glad they weren't at the mall. Blue lights blanketed the room as up-tempo pop music played over the sound system. The line that I squeezed past was all paying and getting shoes. I never really understood the shoe thing. To me it always seemed like a two-drink minimum. Instead of a watered-down Tom Collins, you got a pair of shoes your grandfather's grandfather would never have worn. I had to look up why they do it and found that it was for the sake of the flooring you walk on as you make your approach to release the ball. Apparently, issuing you a pair of shoes assures that you won't have some nasty gunk on the bottom of yours that sticks to the floor, eventually causing it to wear and need replaced. Good thing I left my cleats at home.
I introduced myself to Jennifer, the lady I had spoken to on the phone prior to arriving. She was so busy checking people in and getting them their shoes that she barely had time for more than a cordial smile and a "How do you do?" Sorry, I was looking at the old-timey shoes when she greeted me. ... One of the bowling alley's server's, Tiffany Campbell, was quick to offer her service and see if there was anything I needed. She was also quick to volunteer her husband for a picture as it was his surprise, recurring 25th birthday. Their party was probably half kids, all seeming to be having the time of their lives tossing the heavy plastic/resin/urethane balls down the alley toward the wooden pins.
All of this brought back great memories to me. Bowling was something I was brought up with. In my teens it became the group activity that was approved for us after school dances. When I was older, it became a fun game-oriented place to have a beer and joke about how awful we were at the sport. Overall, bowling has always been a part of my life. Until I moved to Knoxville in the spring of 2010, I bowled every few years.
The restrooms at Strike and Spare were clean, and there was a concession stand offering food items and beers for the adults. There were also games and vending machines positioned around the establishment. I ventured a little further then I came to a door on the far right side of the place that led to a completely separate group of lanes. All in all the bowling alley had 40 lanes, which to me was quite impressive.
I people-watched for a bit. You could see families out just having fun. Then you could see the guys and gals with bowling gloves, each of whom had a bowling ball bag neatly sitting at the base of their feet. This is the exact same thing I remember seeing in pool. You have your pool players who just like to have fun, then you have your competitors who want to beat you more than anything in their lives, complete with custom pool stick and gloves.
After an evening at Strike and Spare, I realized my little boy is going to get the chance to bowl just like I did growing up. More importantly, it was time to get my wife and some friends together to finally get away from the Nintendo Wii and come out to a great place like Strike and Spare for some real-life bowling.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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