If you are one of the silent masses of Yale students who has stubbornly refused to participate in extracurriculars up to this point, allow me to warn you: If you do not come to intramural bowling this Friday, your chances of dying next year will be doubled.
I am deadly serious. Those of us who spend most of our time lounging around or the odd night drinking away our troubles are all at risk. In this apathetic age, quitting not bowling now seriously reduces risks to your health.
In 2000, Harvard University public policy professor Robert D. Putnam GRD ’70, pinpointed the greatest problem facing America today: we are bowling alone. After publishing his monumental work, “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community,” Putnam seemingly became a household name overnight.
According to Putnam, the lonely American bowlers are symbolic of the problems at the heart of our democracy, from the decline in family dinners, church membership and community groups to the increase in bird-flipping on our highways.
Putnam’s brilliant metaphor for the decline of American social and family values received great critical acclaim, drawing comparisons between Putnam and Alexis de Tocqueville and earning Putnam a visit to Camp David, where bowler/President George W. Bush apparently took his advice to heart.
As one reviewer writes: “Once we bowled in leagues, usually after work but no longer. This seemingly small phenomenon symbolizes a significant social change that Robert Putnam has identified and describes in this brilliant volume, “Bowling Alone” … Putnam has identified a central crisis at the heart of our society and suggests what we can do.”
Putnam firmly reminds us that bowling alone — belonging to no leagues, clubs or groups — can be dangerous to one’s health.
Communities without strong networks of what Putnam calls social capital have weaker economies, failing educational systems, and higher rates of teen pregnancy. In stark terms, Putnam’s data shows that bowling by one’s self takes as many seconds off your life as smoking cigarettes.
The repercussions of Putnam’s momentous argument could first be seen in New Haven last year, when the ramshackle, corrupt establishment that was once Amity Bowl became, under new management, Amity Family Bowl, LLC. What was once a nearly defunct operation is now a renovated paradise of community building with hard-core bowlers bowling side-by-side with laughing kids and happy, young couples.
For those who haven’t been in a few years, the former, massively-tattooed counterman has been replaced by the friendly, clean-cut young Matthew. The scratched, pitted, old balls are being replaced by gleaming, polished orbs. The air in the alley seems different with the stale stench of sweaty shoes and cigarette smoke replaced by the distinct lemony scent of family values.
For those of you that haven’t been IM bowling yet, and especially for those of you who go bowling by yourselves, salvation is at hand. This Friday marks the beginning of the IM bowling season, the crown jewel of all Tyng Cup events. Not only is intramural bowling fun, free, and a great way to stave off death, but it is also representative of the great diversity or personality types we are blessed with here at Yale.
Unlike most IM sports, which are primarily populated by every college’s tight-knit pack of IM sports nuts, bowling brings all sorts of people out of the woodwork. Some come to compete, wearing college uniforms and howling in frustration at every solid ten pin. Others come to drink, to shmooze, or just to bowl. Some come just to watch, not interested in bowling but in basking in the glow of this unique, magical, social scene.
At the end of the day, IM bowlers leave happy and energized, confident in the support of the community around them.
Take my advice. As our world is rocked by explosions and shaken by disaster, Amity Family Bowl reminds us that no matter how bad things get, bowling can still make a difference. It is more important now than ever to take Putnam’s advice and create a strong, supportive, undivided Yale community by joining together in large numbers to bowl.
It is the patriotic thing to do.
Andrew Smeall reminds you to use protection when bowling with others and never, evershare bowling balls.