Matt Bieniek's Page


BP City Bowl-a-Thon

Chicago, Illinois

Matt Bieniek's Page

Bowling certainly has changed, hasn't it?  In the early days, most people thought it was a novelty, a fad that would burn itself out and be quickly forgotten.  Remember when tea dancing was the rage? 

It didn't help that most bowling alleys were in shady neighborhoods, set up by unscrupulous operators anywhere there was a long hallway and a pile of shoes.  These shady entrepreneurs would hire some local street urchins to act as pinboys, who worked in barbaric conditions, constantly diving out of the way of the amateur crankers, who had little control over the trajectory of the solid wooden bowling balls that were standard issue of the time.  Being too slow typically meant a fractured tibia or worse, which their Fagin-like boss would turn to his advantage, putting the wounded racker out in front of the building with a crutch and a tin cup to prey on the compassion of passers-by.

The introduction of the automated pinspotter by America Machine and Foundry Company in 1952 went a long way towards doing away with these loathsome proprietors and the beastly treatment of their charges.  The automated pinspotter was rapidly followed by two other great innovations in the game, the polyester bowling shirt and television.  Sports were an integral part of the early broadcast day, and shows like Championship Bowling and Bowling for Dollars proved early-on that people would indeed watch anything on TV.

Soon, family-friendly bowling alleys were popping up everywhere.  It was the golden age of bowling, where professional bowlers, a concept unheard-of in the early part of the century, were getting rock star treatment.  Dads dreamt of their sons and daughters becoming pro bowlers, making the kind of money that would allow them to take care of their parents well into retirement.  Bowling alleys became bigger and more opulent.  They were the entertainment hub of the neighborhood, where anyone who could pull off a 7-ten split would be cheered by his neighbors as a hero.

Bowling-mania has cooled a bit in recent years, as the advent of Texas Hold'em and Professional Rock-Paper-Scissors has replaced it on television, but the introduction several years ago of Wii Bowling has given rise to a new breed of bowler.  People who have never set foot in a bowling alley can now talk with authority about strategies for handling Grandma's Teeth or dealing with a Baby Split with Company, and they can suffer the effects of bowler's elbow without ever lifting a ball! 

But these virtual bowlers are missing out on some of the big benefits of bowling on a real lane, and of course I'm talking about the wide variety of interesting footwear available to the actual bowler.  There is also the character-building real humiliation of throwing consecutive gutter balls in the physical presence of your friends and neighbors, instead of just on the flat-screen TV of that 14 year-old Swedish kid who keeps taunting you on-line.  Best of all, you frequently get to experience the joys and humiliations of bowling in the real world in the service of a good cause, as at a bowl-a-thon.

I'm proud to be participating in this years' BP Bowl-a-thon to benefit Junior Achievement.  The date is May 14th, and I'm asking everyone to pledge a couple of bucks toward this worthwhile organization.  Think of your donation as a memorial to those filthy little ragamuffins who used to risk life and limb to stand up crude wooden bobbins for your ancestors to try to topple.  They earned your support.

Junior Achievement of Chicago is an educational non-profit bringing financial literacy, work readiness, and entrepreneurship programs into classrooms from kindergarten through high school. JA of Chicago is the largest JA office of more than 120 area offices in the United States and reached an all-time high of 445,460 students during the 2012-2013 school year. More information is available about JA at

Note: All funds raised by BP Employees will be matched by the BP Matching Foundation.

Bowling in the real world.  A proud tradition.

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