Even Bill Clinton Bowls!
by Jim Provenzano
Bowling has long been one of the most popular sports in the GLBT community, both locally and at Gay Games events around the world.
Most of the 88 Bay Area bowlers who traveled to Sydney for the sixth quadrennial Games will also be competing in Daly City at the nineteenth annual Golden Gate Classic, taking place Feb 14-16.
Several directors of the Golden Gate Classic bowling tournament also competed in Sydney.
Chuck Vrana noted that every entrant in bowling competes in singles, doubles and a team event.
"We have an optional scratch masters event, which has five different divisions, based on averages. The regular event is handicapped. You qualify for finals based on non-handicapped scores."
One of the founders of the Amsterdam league, which focused on developing players' skills for the Games, Vrana also organized the Sydney teams, which is now renamed Montreal 2006.
"It promotes interest in attending the Games, as well as a savings plan so bowlers can put money away to pay for the trip."
Vrana's been bowling since he was ten year sold in Omaha, Nebraska, where he bowled in junior leagues. "I did my first bowling in San Francisco in adult leagues, and continue to bowl in the gay leagues here."
He likes "the fun, the sociability of it, and the competitiveness of it; also the fact that it's one of the sports where people of different abilities can compete against one another."
"Someone who is a 200 average bowls with people in the 140 average. Because we handicap differences it makes it possible for everybody to win."
That plan, despite being protested by leaders in the gay, senior and youth communities at City Hall, went through, after San Francisco Supervisors Michael Yaki and others, while offering lip service at public forums, did little to prevent the closure.
"There was some difficulty after Japantown," said Vrana of the loss. "We always took the entire upper floor. It strengthened the sense of community. But we've found other places to bowl."
With 76 teams currently competing in the gay league, despite moving to outlying lanes at the Presidio, Daly City, and Pacifica, Vrana has noticed, "a big increase" in players.
Don George not only competed in Sydney, but also trekked a bit north to New Zealand for the IGBO (International Gay Bowling Organization) tournament.
George said that 88 bowlers in Sydney and Auckland, New Zealand (prior to the Games).
"Team SF won at least 14 medals. George placed 4th in Singles, 5 in doubles and 6th in team.
"Team SF bowlers won the majority of the medals in Sydney for any Sydney, but we usually do. We have a very dedicated group of bowlers who are very serious about our sport and our competition."
He expects over 300 bowlers will compete, arriving from Southern California, Oregon, Michigan, New York, Washington and even Canada.
"This is the western region's biggest event," he said. They're well prepared, despite the dearth of city facilities.
"The only bowling centers in San Francisco are at the Presidio and Moscone Center, which only ten lanes. For 300 bowlers, It's obviously not big enough."
Quintana's been bowling since he was 18, but didn't join a gay league until 1993. He had so much fun, he went to that year's International Gay Bowling tournament (IGBO) in Oklahoma.
Different cities host each annual event. The next IGBO will be in Phoenix, Arizona, May 24-27.
But this week's focus is the Daly City tournament, with 35 hotel rooms booked for visitors.
Quintana mentioned that there's a gay bowling event almost every night of the week.
"Mondays is the Tavern Guild's, and the Montreal 2006 league. Wednesday community leagues see 20 teams play. Sunday is the Rainbow league at the Presidio, and the Women's league. We also have Thursday afternoon leagues, and Thursday night at Seabowl. It's a very competitive league." Quintana bowls on Monday, Wednesday and Thurdays.
The history of the International Gay Bowling Organization is rich and diverse, reflecting the organization's ideals of unity, fellowship and communication. From its original six member cities in 1980, to over 200 member leagues and tournaments worldwide, IGBO has grown into the largest international gay and lesbian sports organization in existence today.
Gay and lesbian leagues emerged in the United States in the '70's as a social outlet for men and women who wished to meet in a non-bar atmosphere.
IGBO was created out of a desire to unify all gay leagues, and open lines of communications between them, as well as promote the sport through league and tournament participation.
Over the past twenty years, the organization has dealt with topical issues such as increasing participation by women, memorializing members who have succumbed to AIDS, raising funds for charitable organizations, and the ongoing pursuit of increasing membership worldwide.
LIKE TO SCORE
With over 800 bowlers from around the world eagerly seeking results, all competitors were referred to a phone line and a web site that was not updated regularly.
Litwin put it bluntly. "It was a big mess."
The problems of crowded competitions that went on into the night were common at Gay Games V, but Litwin recalled that finding results wasn?t a problem in Amsterdam.
In Sydney, he was able to find out some results through word of mouth, instead of through the "late and inaccurate information" given out by organizers.
A further cause of some controversy was the change in the format. Usually, Games bowling events are held in a "scratch" tournament style, but Sydney sports organizers chose to make it a handicap tournament. While not an unfamiliar format, it left some wondering why the decision was made.
Despite these problems, the events were well attended, and will no doubt continue to grow in popularity. Litwin's team (Litwin, Duane Flohra, Jim Hahn, and Nelson Luesse), the cleverly named "Strictly Ball Room," won a silver medal.
Flohra and Luesse also won a bronze medal in bowling doubles. Litwin and Hahn won a silver medal in bowling doubles. Flohra also won a medal in bowling singles.