Bowling gains younger crowd

Chad Whitbeck, freshman undecided major, bowls every Monday night with a group from his church.

Chad Whitbeck, freshman undecided major, bowls every Monday night with a group from his church.

Melissa Dunson

Once yawned at by college students as an evening with the senior citizens or a final judgment of geekiness, bowling is now becoming an increasingly popular venue for Missouri Southern students.

Tattooed and pierced, this new crop of bowlers seems bent on reviving the sport, and Carl Richard’s bowling alleys are here to help.

For the past two years, Carl Richard’s Bowl East and Fourth Street Bowl have offered dollar bowling every Monday night after 9 p.m. Each game is $1.25 and shoe rental is $1.

The increase in popularity is apparent to anyone trying to find an open lane just a few short minutes after 9 p.m.

Even the aromatic scent of nachos, cheap beer, second-hand smoke and polyester hanging thickly in the air isn’t enough to deter the regular dollar bowlers from their chosen entertainment.

The reduced price is a major drawing factor for college students often short on cash.

“It’s cheap entertainment,” said Andrew Jinks, senior business major. “And I’m a poor college kid.”

More than the monetary aspect, Dan Ruddick, assistant manager of Carl Richard’s Fourth Street Bowl, thinks the social aspect is why 90 percent of the current dollar bowlers are college students.

“You can drink here,” he said. “And it’s indoors so you can do it any time of the year. We have music – it’s almost like a club, except instead of just standing around talking to people, there’s something to do.”

Bowling’s newfound popularity doesn’t have as much to do with the sport as having a place in Joplin to socialize.

“It’s not about the game,” Jinks said.

“It’s about having fun, unless you don’t break 100, then it’s about the game.”

Some students, like Adam Alford, freshman undecided major, show up to the bowling alley just for the interaction and don’t even bother bowling.

“My buddies wanted me to come,” Alford said.

“It’s a good place to come and hang out.”

Unlike other competitive sports, a person who has never bowled before can still have a good time.

“There’s no social pressure,” said Rick Barks, sophomore secondary education major. “Nobody cares if you’re a good or bad bowler. You don’t have to be cool or athletic to enjoy yourself. It’s a very honest and personal game.”

Once the league bowlers finish their games just after 9 p.m., the lights and music come up and a world of amateurs with hook shots, spinners, granny shots and gutter balls abound.

After 9 p.m., there are no uniforms, no bowling gloves or wrist braces and few rules.

For some athletes, the bowling alley provides a relief from high-pressure, competitive sports.

Several members of Southern’s golf team come to Fourth Street Bowl two or three times every week.

“It’s our away time,” said Eric Andrews, freshman business major and member of the golf team. “We always come up here.”

While some of the students called it a trend, others think the bowling resurrection is here to stay.