Granite State of Mind, #107: Bowl-O-Rama and Scoreboard Sports Lounge, Portsmouth
As any New Englander knows, candlepin is the only legitimate form of bowling. Candlepin is older, invented in 1880, before the standardization of tenpin in 1895 or the creation of duckpin in 1900. It's also harder. Balls and pins are both smaller than in the clumsier, more pedestrian version enjoyed elsewhere, and a perfect candlepin game has never been bowled in sanctioned play. The highest recorded score is 245. There is no argument that candlepin is better - and by a lot.
That being established, my favorite bowling alley was the one in the MUB, where RJ Burns and Mike Vlacich and I would bowl after Senate meetings with a wide group of others. They tore those alleys up after my freshman year - I still have a pair of shoes and a pin from the final game played there. The place I've bowled the most, though, is on Lafayette Road in Portsmouth at the loud, brightly-lit and awesomely named Bowl-O-Rama. My brother and I started there in youth bowling leagues a million years ago, earning patches for "The Smurfs" if memory serves. As time went on, I made plenty of trips back with buddies or dates or family for the disinfectant-scented good times of the bowling alley.
It should also be noted that the Bowl-O-Rama boasted one of the great little sports bars on the Seacoast, the Scoreboard Lounge. I used to meet up with Al Pace and the Bauer hockey guys there each August for our fantasy football draft, and that's where we both recall watching the first game action for one Thomas Edward Brady in a Patriots uniform. It was the last preseason game on Thursday night, August 30, 2001 against the Washington Redskins. We were big Drew Bledsoe fans, due to his helping Bob Kraft and Bill Parcells to revive our beloved-but-moribund franchise in the 1990s, and quarterback was the last position we were watching with an eye to a preseason battle. I can remember we both thought the lad showed promise, moving the team well down the field during extended play. I wouldn't go so far as to say that either of us predicted what would follow - and I remained stubbornly and stupidly Team Drew through 2001. But every time the greatest quarterback of all time is on the field, I think of that night at the Scoreboard, and how impressed we were with the understudy.
The Scoreboard is gone now, closed in 2008. But the Bowl-O-Rama is still there. And so is Tom Brady.