Bowling Backwards and the Pursuit of Perfection

bowlingIt is said everybody is good at something and so, since the world is filled with lots of people, it stands to reason at least somebody will be good at bowling backwards. Rockford, Illinois’ Andrew Caven might be that one person although, truth be told, there are others out there. Yet Mr. Caven is the best, and now he is pursuing perfection as he seeks to be the first to ever backwards bowl a perfect 300 game.

Mr. Caven didn’t start bowling backwards until a year ago, when started as a way to take pressure off his knees. As a front bowler he had a 225 average which is very, very good; nobody knows what the “average” bowing score is but consensus is about 100-115. Most professional bowlers have an average just above Mr. Craven’s, but also bowl on much more challenging lanes. Nevertheless, an average of 225 puts him among the top ranks of amateur bowlers. As backward bowler he averages 170 but in January he did something nobody has ever done: bowled a 280.

“That was an off the charts good night for me,” he said in an interview with a local television station. “I hadn’t had anything quite close to that. I was very emotional at the end. It was quite exciting.”

A 280 meant Mr. Caven rolled ten strikes in a row. A great score, the greatest backwards bowling score ever, but there is still room for improvement. The pursuit of the perfect game is the final frontier.

Considering how many millions of rounds are played every year around the world, throwing a perfect game is an exceedingly rare occurrence, at least for amateurs. The professional world is different; the record by any one individual is 85 perfect games thrown in professional competition, and another has bowled a certified 210 games in league matches. But the vast majority of the typical Tuesday night league bowlers, or teenagers out on first dates, will never come close.

Yet bowling is one of the few sports in which perfection is achievable. Shooting a hole-in-one in golf has probably happened in similar numbers, but is only one hole out of 18. The Golf Association does have a definition of a perfect round: a score of 54 on a par-72 golf course, meaning every hole in round is played at least one under par,  but the closest any professional has come to perfection is shooting a 58.

Other sports offer the possibility of perfection- figure skating, diving, bull riding and snowboarding, as examples- but in each a perfect score is a subjective judgement. A quarterback can get a perfect passer rating in football but still must rely on his wide receivers to catch the ball and his front line to give him time to throw. A pitcher in baseball can throw a perfect game but is still dependent in his teammates catching and throwing balls and umpires calling the game correctly.

So no other sport except bowling gives a guy like Andrew Caven a chance to pursue sports immortality, to hear his name spoken next to legends like Dick Weber and Earl Anthony. His perch atop the backwards bowling world is tenuous- another bowler has recorded a high score of 179. But maybe soon he’ll reach that perfect moment, or at least turn his back on it.


Commentary by Andrew Elfenbein
Follow Andrew of Twitter @andyelf

CBS News
The Bowling Museum

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