Knocking down the ducks

Image from

Terrific article about the decline of duckpin bowling by the incomparable Dan Barry. I had no idea things had gotten so bad:

Her sport is so yesterday that whenever another duckpin alley closes, the remaining alley owners descend like predatory relatives to cart off the mechanical parts of duckpin setting machines that have not been made in two generations.

That’s partly because the guy who invented the machine refused to sell to Brunswick, but that’s another story.

What fascinates me, though, is what’s happening to alleys themselves. I wish they were more popular, but I’m one to talk: I used to bowl (tenpins) regularly, but I think I’ve been twice in the last five years. (I imagine my 160 average would be somewhat lower these days. I’ll blame my knees.) I hadn’t even thought about duckpins in awhile. Given the struggles of tenpin bowling, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that it’s also fading.

I hope it holds on, though. I’ve been duckpin bowling twice and candlepin bowling once — I want to say all in Canada, though one of the duckpin games may have been in the States. (I’m sorry I never got to go to the alley my grandfather owned in Saint John, N.B.) Both forms are far more challenging than tenpin bowling; as Barry notes, there’s never been a perfect 300 game in duckpins, and there hasn’t been in candlepins, either. Both tend to lull you in because the ball can fit in an adult hand — it’s maybe a bit larger than a Skee-ball — and how hard can it be to fling it down the lane and knock everything down? Pretty hard, it turns out.

Anyway, it’s a great piece. Nice photographs, too.



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