How I miss the lawn bowlers. Once, the greens blossomed with figures in white, many games in play at once. Now, if I'm lucky, there might be six players, three to a team -- one game in motion. Sad. I don't go much anymore.
Here's a picutre of some players chatting it up after a tournament around 2010. The young player, Jonathan, in front of his younger brother,is talking to Jerry, a great sport who brought humor to the greens and should have been the club's leader all along. You'll read more about Jonathan in my post below.
What follows below is an item I drafted but held back, around 2007. The "challenger" referred to, at one time or maybe still the president, may have not been the right leader for the club. The player he challenged, yes, known for being bit of a crank, a year or so later allegedly got into another tense tiff (possibly with the same man), and retried from the club. I missed his crusty appearance. Sitting on the sidelines, I gathered impressions, and, to be lawn-bowling discrete, wondered if leadership was a tad alienating. Of course, players die or or no longer can play, or move away.
To its credit, the Oakland club has roused a younger crop of players who show up at later times, due to work restraints. But under the sunlight on Tuesdays and Thursdays, those lovely greens stand fairly still. The aging holdouts who cobble together a game soldier on, faint reverberations of a once-thriving scene.
From 2007, my unpublished post:
Shocking Incivility on the Green: One lawn bowler to another: “If you don’t like it, go home!”
We don’t expect such rudeness under a soothing late-winter California sun. We don’t associate the gentile sport of lawn bowling, where once they all wore white, with indelicate outbursts.
One player was standing in the sight lines of the bowler, and that according to the rules is a no-no that can lead to sudden forfeiture. The distracting player moved a little, but not enough.
Shouted the challenger, “Stand in the center, six feet behind the jack. It’s in the rule book.”
Tension charged the air.
“If you don’t like it, go home!”
Ouch. And all along I thought these folk were so relentlessly polite.
I have watched the game for many years. There is a certain poetry to it. (When in Sarasota recently, with my niece and her new son, we spent some time watching the Floridians play — they were that day noticeably less expressive than their crusty counterparts in Oakland) Now and then, a player will wander over in my direction, hoping to lure me into the club. Politely I refrain. I should post a placard next to me that reads “Do Not Disturb. Spectator Only.” In fact, I am the Jack Nicholson of Lawn Bowling.
The game can be fascinating when the players are hot after the jack and take turns claiming it. It’s all about nuances. Look at young Jonathan (there he is in some photos I took of him a few years ago), who holds his own against players easily seventy years his senior. His father is a fanatic — they come from another Bay Area club for league tournaments — I view him as the John McEnroe of the game.
A few of the others, clearly embarrassed by his hot-temper (I have seen him throw tantrums over botched bowls), have told me that he has been warned.
Maybe, too, should the man who shouted “If you don’t like it, go home!”