Over the past couple of decades, however, engineers armed with an array of high-tech materials and sophisticated ideas about angular momentum and moments of inertia have transformed the sport--and, most notably, the bowling ball. Nowadays the ball comes with a dizzying array of options, each imparting a different spin and roll.
Each year nearly 70 million Americans hit the lanes, making bowling the most popular participatory sport in the U.S.
The invention of the automatic pinsetter in 1951 had a great impact on the game. No longer reliant on unpredictable labor, alley proprietors saw an opportunity to expand their market beyond league bowlers, and they advertised the game as good clean family fun. Glitzy recreation centers with cheerful names such as "Bowl-ODrome" and "Victory Bowling" opened in shopping plazas throughout the country.
Balls used to be primarily lignum vitae, a very hard wood. But in 1905, the first rubber ball, the "Evertrue" was introduced;, and in 1914 the Brunswick Corporation successfully promoted the Mineralite ball, touting its "mysterious rubber compound.".
Today, the sport of bowling is enjoyed by 95 million people in more than 90 countries worldwide. Under the auspices of the Federation Nationale des Quilleurs (FIQ), bowling's top athletes regularly compete in Olympic Zone and worldwide competitions.
The Professional Bowlers Association of America (PBA) was organized in 1958. It quickly developed a star system and a tournament tour fashioned after that of professional golf. PBA members, helped by a booming television industry, were soon playing for more than $1 million in yearly prize money; this figure had grown to more than $7 million by the late 1980s, though by the early 21st century the tour’s total prize monies awarded had dropped to about $4 million.
As a sport with an indelible blue-collar image, bowling has achieved the status of being an "everyman's" sport, more synonymous with the American individual character than baseball. It is a uniquely non-competitive sport in which people try to better their own games more than beating others, who are usually friends or family members.
Bowling, the sport of throwing a heavy ball down a lane and knocking over pins, has been around for centuries, and has become one of America's most democratic pastimes. Often referred to as the "great cultural leveler," bowling is affordable, allows for the participation of both genders, all ages, skill levels, and classes, and encourages a social camaraderie rare in other competitive sports.
Can you spare a second for bowling? Far from striking out, it was the fastest-growing varsity sport in the nation's high schools in 2004-05, adding more teams and players than any other, the National Federation of State High School Associations reports. Currently, 16 states treat bowling as a varsity sport--up from just four in 1999--and about 40,000 teens participate
Articles found in the tomb of an Egyptian child buried in about 3200 bc included nine pieces of stone, to be set up as pins, at which a stone “ball” was rolled, the ball having first to roll through an archway made of three pieces of marble. The modern sport of bowling at pins probably originated in ancient Germany, not as a sport but as a religious ceremony.