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It’s Milwaukee After All…

Checking out the city’s LGBT bowling scene

Aug. 30, 2016
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Some years ago while bowling at Bay View Bowl one Sunday evening, someone in an adjacent lane made it a point to suggest to our party that we should look into “HIT.” At the time, deeply engaged in our game as we were, it didn’t quite click what he was talking about. We just nodded and thanked him for the tip. Later it dawned on us (slow but sure). He was, innocuously and perhaps thoughtfully (I think), referring to the Holiday Invitational Tournament (H.I.T.), Milwaukee’s major gay bowling event. It’s been held every Thanksgiving weekend for nearly four decades (this year will be its 38th anniversary). Established back in the day to accommodate lonely LGBT bowlers who had no place to go on Thanksgiving, it provided a viable alternate to that awkward dinner at home with the family.

Anyway, save for an occasional foray into the duck pin alley back in Connecticut during my youth, I had really never bowled before coming to Milwaukee. Of course, I joined Monday Night Irregulars (what’s behind that name, I’m told, is a bowling term for something, not what it sounds like). I fared well enough and even broke 200 early in my first season. I never did that again, but it gave me a psychological boost—especially since the spectrum of talent included those guys and gals who brought their own balls (sometimes two). They were the serious ones who spent a lot of time polishing their custom-fitted balls with a special ball rag while we amateurs had to make do with something off the rack. For me it was just a matter of finding a ball that fit my fingers and looked nice. I did enjoy bowling, though.

Watching the other players was a lesson in local lore. I’d hear them talk about their high school bowling teams—needless to say we didn’t have those back in Connecticut—and they were fun to watch, especially the ones with their pair of personal balls. I never quite figured out the point, except, perhaps, to impress and inspire everyone else. Certainly, a nice pair will do it. But, admittedly, they were good. I swear some threw balls that performed figure eights while spinning down the lane until hitting the pins for an impressive strike. Anyway, Monday Night Irregulars have been around forever; their 29-week season begins Monday, Sept. 12. 

Then, there’s the Sunday Best League that plays every other Sunday. They start on Sunday, Sept. 18. That league goes back to the early ’80s. The idea was to give people something to do on Sunday outside of a nightclub. The league bowled at Landmark Lanes where there were gay-friendly employees who allowed it to happen and promoted it by word of mouth. At first the league had only 40 bowlers. That number would grow to 125 at its peak.

Both leagues are still seeking teams and players and can be found through the Milwaukee Gay Sports Network page on social media. H.I.T. 2016 takes place Nov. 24-26. H.I.T., by the way, is the oldest LGBT bowling tournament in the world! No surprise there…it’s Milwaukee after all.

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