Here We Are: What Makes Us Human

YFON: Bill Spigner [Bowling]

July 28, 2021 Joy Bork Season 3 Episode 6
Here We Are: What Makes Us Human
YFON: Bill Spigner [Bowling]
Chapters
Here We Are: What Makes Us Human
YFON: Bill Spigner [Bowling]
Jul 28, 2021 Season 3 Episode 6
Joy Bork

This week, Joy dives in headfirst with Bill Spigner, a real-life, down-to-earth, wonderful human who nerds out about bowling. After all - he is a pro! Check out his website to learn more about him!

Check out Here We Are on Instagram, Facebook, or Patreon!

Show Notes Transcript

This week, Joy dives in headfirst with Bill Spigner, a real-life, down-to-earth, wonderful human who nerds out about bowling. After all - he is a pro! Check out his website to learn more about him!

Check out Here We Are on Instagram, Facebook, or Patreon!

Joy Bork:

Welcome to Here We Are: the podcast where we talk about curiosity, fascination, and what makes us delightfully nerdy. I'm your nerd host. Joy Bork. This season is focused around the theme of your flavor of nerd or Y F O N as I abbreviated it in the episode title. Some of you may be aware that I'm also a co-host on another podcast, Parks and Rewatch. This is where my friend, Joe and I are hilariously talking our way episode by episode through NBC's TV series, Parks and Recreation. One of my favorite things to do while prepping to record is to find the things that the casual viewer wouldn't question. Like in season 4 episode 13, Bowling For Votes, Leslie, one of the main characters, just whips out an amazing bowling game. So I naturally questioned her ability. My frame of reference, of course, is myself. I grew up going bowling about once a year on black Friday. I was pretty bad at it, but I chose to not do it to win because I knew I wouldn't anyway. Or at least I tried to believe that I was fine if I didn't win. So. To learn more about the plausibility of how parks and recreation set up Leslie's bowling skills, I emailed Chicagoland bowling pro Bill Spigner who graciously agreed to meet with me the same day, and share his experience and knowledge for both podcasts. So, no matter what your experience is with propelling bowling balls down oiled lanes, buckle up and settle in. We're about to learn all the things you didn't know you needed to know. Without further ado, Bill Spigner and bowling.

Bill Spigner:

I'm Bill Spigner and I've been involved in bowling my whole life. Seriously, since I was 13 and I had a career on the pro tour. I did 12 years bowling full time and then I got married in the middle of it and well we had a son right away and it was time to decide where to go. And I had only planned to bowl eight or nine years, and I was already at that point. So my wife wanted to keep going until our son went to kindergarten. And then after that I opened up pro shop. And I did professional teaching starting in 1979, along with that. And I got married in 1980, so we opened the pro shop. And then we got involved with building a bowling center with a group, and then we became sole proprietors of it after about three years. We bought out our partners and uh, so I was a bowling center proprietor, I was a pro shop operator, professional instructor and lots of other things within the industry. So my whole life has been bowling. So I became uniquely qualified for lots of things so it was kind of good. It's a, not a career path. Most people take as a kid, but I liked bowling and I wanted to bowl professionally and that's uh the only thing I wanted to do. And I ended up doing that. But then that spawning off of that was a lot of other things that had happened and I married the right girl. So that helped out a lot.

Joy Bork:

that's fantastic.

Bill Spigner:

Yeah,

Joy Bork:

Who introduced you to bowling or who in your life was key to you falling in love with bowling.

Bill Spigner:

well, it's just like most people have started bowling. Their parents bowled, my parents bowled in a couple of leagues a week and they would take me and my two sisters with them. And and none of us got serious with it until I was about 13. And then I started in the league. And one of my sisters, the other one didn't. But mostly because of my parents. And for me personally play little league baseball and I was a catcher, I was an all-star catcher. And then the next year in babe Ruth league, when you turn 13, you have to go into that league. And I didn't know about the tryouts or anything, and my parents didn't understand a lot of that stuff. And so I missed the dates and I actually got a call to try out for a team and in a private tryout. And I went there and there was nobody there. So I walked to the bowling center. My father was bowling and I never looked back and I just kept bowling.

Joy Bork:

Wow. That's so interesting.

Bill Spigner:

Okay. Yeah, it was kind of, kind of good. I was a good defensive player. Good arm, slow feet, not a great stick but it was a, it was a learning curve. Like anything else. And bowling is the same way. It's a massive learning curve. And the learning curve is so steep that the normal person looking at the sport can't even comprehend how steep it is. It's like any sport. Golf or, any individual sport where you're against an object that's in front of you that's stationary, but always changing. So you have to learn how to play it. Okay.

Joy Bork:

what are some of the key fundamental things in that steep learning curve that your beginner students have to check the boxes on before they can get really moving?

Bill Spigner:

Well, they have to understand that the playing environment and the, basically the dimensions and the lanes, and we have dots on the approach. We call them dots. And they're spaced five boards apart from each one, and like the middle of that and the approach if you've gone bowling before I assume. Okay. So you walk up onto the approach. There's two rows of dots and there's a larger one in the center, and most people don't pay attention to it as recreational, but however, that middle dot on the approach lines up with the little dot and the front row of dots, the dots at the foul line, the middle arrow there's arrows across the lane, and we call them arrows. And that lines up with the headman.

Joy Bork:

that's

Bill Spigner:

So all the dots line up with the arrows on the line and they line up with the pins. So the angles you play have to be based off, it's easier to base it off of that. So you have to understand the playing environment as much as anything because they have to know angles. And when they move, how to move properly, and then the fundamentals of delivering a ball. So if you're a raw beginner, you just trying to get them into an an approach walking and swinging and rolling a ball that is in sync. So the arm swing is in sync with the legs and they create some momentum going up there. And then you have to land in balance. It's like a, it's like a turbot to my students. Like you watch gymnastics and somebody goes through their routine and they're going through everything. And then they have to stick the landing. If they fall off in the landing, it deducts points. And so one of the basics of bowling is having a secure building of your stance. When you start. How you start. You kind of fly through the middle of it and then you have to land the land and balance so you can repeat a shot. And we have to do that just like in gymnastics. So I refer to it more like gymnastics and they have to have a finished position that they're solid in. So you can a: repeat making the shots and B: evaluate the quality of the shot because they have a very solid finish. So they can think back before that, what might've went wrong. the ball didn't travel where they wanted it to travel.

Joy Bork:

yeah, that gives you a chance to be more scientific with it.

Bill Spigner:

Exactly. It's always feel it's sight and feel, and you can't see yourself as you're playing and you can't measure it, but you can certainly see what the ball does. And you can certainly learn the feelings that you have. So you have to learn your own personal feelings.

Joy Bork:

Yeah. Do you remember the moments when you felt it the first time or when you like got a new concept for the first time?

Bill Spigner:

Oh, boy. That's a tough one too. I was always in a process of trying to get better. And I used a lot of visual imagery, even as a kid, not knowing what that's what it was called. And I would watch others bowl and I'd watch on TV, what the pros are doing. The angles they're playing, the spin and the hook they put on the ball or less hook. And I would try to learn how to play those angles. And I had a pretty I guess I had good touch with my hand and sense of what I wanted my hand to do, and I could change my swing and I could change my release and change a lot of things. And it was just always a building blocks. So, but it's there's many moments in bowling cause, I bowl 35 to 38 weeks a year in tournaments. So not every tournament you're going to play well in. So you're always building. So the idea is that every shot you roll is the building block for the next shot that you're going to throw. Good or bad. And if it's bad, you're always building to try and find that magic feel that you get with, this term is sports in the zone. And what you get in there, you're repeating, and you have to still have a high level of concentration about what you're doing, because eventually it's going to leave. The lane conditions changed dramatically as you play because there's oil on the lanes and the oil is constantly changing with every ball that's rolled. So angles and spins have to change to accommodate the changing of the playing surface. And nobody can do it all the time and the best do it more often than the, then the rest. You know, I was like a top 10, top 20 player for four or five, four or five years on tour. I wasn't top five or top three, but I was in the top 10 or top 20 top for period of time. So I was a good player, but not like a, the superstars in a day, which when I bowled was Mark Roth, Earl Anthony, Marshall Holman, and those guys were head and shoulders better than everybody else. But you can beat 'em at times because there's so many tournaments and not everybody can play well all the time.

Joy Bork:

You've been bowling seriously, since you were 13. That's a really long time. What has kept you with bowling?

Bill Spigner:

Well, I'm 71, so that's 58 years. And I wanted to bowl professionally. So that was the first stepping stone. When you get involved in sports, the longer you play in the sport as a professional, the less things you can do outside of it, going into the business world. So my first, well second cause I was already teaching and I was writing for a magazine to instructional articles, was opened up a pro shop, but I kept writing and I kept teaching. So I had three areas there that we built and owned the bowling center. So that was a fourth facet of it. But I kept doing all the other things at the same time.

Joy Bork:

interesting.

Bill Spigner:

So it just basically was a lifestyle. It was and like I said earlier, you become uniquely qualified within your industry because your knowledge base in your, of being very broad on everything. So it's just a, and I wouldn't change it. I wouldn't have want to done anything else. So it's I was one of the lucky ones.

Joy Bork:

That's really cool. What is one of your biggest hero moments with bowling? Like where you felt like I totally nailed this. This was amazing.

Bill Spigner:

Well, it's probably the tournament, New Jersey in 1976, and I hadn't won on tour yet. It was a major, it was like a small tournament, it was five games, but they had four and a half pound pins. And the average pin weight is three and a half pounds or three pounds, six ounces, seven ounces. And it was very low scoring. And I went there with a girlfriend I had a time, and I took the lead in it by a lot. And I only averaged 199 doing that. And when I left there, I said, I did it. I had never said that to myself before that I did it, but there was, I never thought about it before I just kind of came out. And I won the tournament, pay $12,000 first. And I won the doubles part of it. I went back there with another friend. We won $5,000 for that. And in 1976, that was a lot of money for a single guy. And you know what? That was a pivotal moment because all of a sudden I was financially free and that's that was a major moment in my bowling career. So I always sponsored myself. I always felt if I didn't bowl well enough to make enough money to survive as a single guy that I shouldn't be doing And I,and I did. So.

Joy Bork:

That's fantastic. Was there a moment during that, that like time slowed down and it was kind of like the intro to chariots of fire. That's how it would be in my head,

Bill Spigner:

of fire I don't know that one.

Joy Bork:

The intro where like it's super Epic music and everyone's like moving in slow motion and then just the success across the finish line. It's Epic.

Bill Spigner:

yeah, the interesting thing. You say it's slow motion. And when you're playing well, and you're kind of in a zone, it absolutely feels like you're a slow motion. Everything's going slow. And so mentally you're slowed down. So you're so engrossed in the process of what you're doing and there's nothing around you. A bomb can go off and you don't even know what's going off because you're so engrossed in that. On the opposite end of it, when it's not going well, your mind is scattered all over the place. So it's kinda like, one time at a, one of our mental lectures at our team USA camp, the kids all had to pick a song. And then they made us coaches pick a song. And then I pick riders on the storm just by the doors, just so happened. I w was listening to it in my headphones when I was going over to the campus and it just was appropriate. Cause you're when you're riding and you're doing well, it's so calm. And when you're not doing well, it's like a storm in your head, and your brain is going all over the place all the time. So how do you get calmed down? So you're kind of riding in a storm when you're not doing well. And then when you're doing well, you don't have that. You have that calm and that slow motion feeling where everything's going to slow motion.

Joy Bork:

that is so cool. Thank you for sharing those stories with me. This is so exciting because I was hoping to see a whole new side of bowling, which isn't hard considering I don't know a lot about it, but this is way more complex and involved than I ever imagined. And I'm. It makes me so happy inside right now to be learning all of this from you. So thank you so much.

Bill Spigner:

Nice. Yeah. And, I teach a lot of kids. I do hundreds of private lessons a year and lots of kids. And the parents are kind of amazed. And they'll say, I didn't realize how technical it was. And it is because you just, knowing where you're at on the approach, like the middle dot that's on board 20. So if you're looking at the arrows, let's say you're looking at the second arrow, which counting the arrows, right? The left is you look at the lane and you roll the ball over that direction. And it has to hook back to hit the head pin in the right spot. If you move your feet, one board left and keep the same target. It equals three boards at the pins. Cause it's zero at 50 feet. 1 at 30 feet, 2 at 45 feet and 3 at 60 feet, if the ball traveled a straight line. So as to, so now you move, you spot one board and missed it, it's four boards. So then when you start missing by three or four boards, let's say you miss by three boards at the arrows, that's 9 or 12 at the other end. That's the difference between hitting the front pin and hitting the 6 pin near the 10 pin. So the misses are great. So you have to understand the basic math of doing it. Not that you have to be so analytical that you are totally absorbed, but you have to know the basic fundamentals of adjustments, which can be very overwhelming and it can be very simple. It depends on the on the player, but you have to understand what you're doing.

Joy Bork:

and they said we would never use math in our real lives.

Bill Spigner:

Yeah, that's I learned that many years ago, and it's a lost art in the sport today and rightfully so to a certain degree, but you have to understand angles. And so if you're not using a math, you still have to be standing and targeting in the right place for your destination. If your target is off to your destination, then your arm swing is off relative to the target and destination. And your brain knows you're missing .Then your brain tells your body to do something to compensate for the miss, and then you throw a bad ball, cause you're just manually trying to control it. And you can't do that. You have to have a swing back and forth where it's repeatable and it's it's more gravity fed, not muscle fed. And you don't use muscle to throw it. You use a swing. That's where the technique comes in. As far as form goes and stuff. Because it has to be ideally unimpeded on the way back. And the way forward, you can apply a little bit of effort to it because it's going forward with the body because everything's in front of you. If you have force in the way back, the ball is going back as you're going forward. And let's say you're using a 15 pound ball. That force, that weight of the ball becomes it could be 130 pounds, depending on how fast you throw it. So if you're a slow thrower, it may be 60 or 70 pounds. However, you're forcing the ball back away from you as you're going forward. And then you got to stop and restart it. And that's where a lot of muscle comes in. So it's a, it's the swing that has to just get back on its own. Start back down on its own. Then the explosion point becomes at the finish where you're in the right spot to be able to accelerate it. And that's timing. So swing and timing are two of the critical parts of being able to repeat shots.

Joy Bork:

I love how casually you're talking about this, because that speaks to the depth of your expertise and I just very much admire that.

Bill Spigner:

Nice.

Joy Bork:

It's good to see humans that are passionate and really good at what they love. Final question? What is one thing you wish people knew about bowling?

Bill Spigner:

I wish they knew what is really all about. And it's not about beer drinking and smoking and overweight people doing it and, uh, it's people that are that enjoy it. And they enjoy being around other people. And they really like the social aspect of bowling. And that becomes the major draw to bowling after you get started. And you can bowl in a league and let's say there's 16 teams of four on a team, that's 64 bowlers. You can go in there and you know 64 bowlers you can talk to it anytime you want or not talk to them. And you're never alone. And you've always got people that you can go to talk to.

Joy Bork:

Thank you for your time, Bill. This has been absolutely

Bill Spigner:

Well, thanks for asking. Good, good.

Joy Bork:

Thank you.

Bill Spigner:

Thanks joy. Take care. Bye.

Joy Bork:

So here we are. It's seriously makes me so happy to have the honor of talking with humans about their chosen flavor of nerd. And Bill was so kind to lend me his time to teach this bowling muggle about the magic of his career. If you'd like to get in touch with Bill, learn more about his career or get lessons, check out his website, www.billspigner.com. Today's episode is made possible by so many of my people. Thanks to Lisa for the logo, to Katie for season three's concept clarity, and to Bill for sharing your knowledge with us. Okay. I've got to know what's one of your flavors of nerd? How does it show up in your life? If you're open to sharing about it and possibly being featured on the podcast, send me an email at [email protected]

A few of you have already reached

Joy Bork:

out and let me interview you. And I am so excited for those episodes to come in season four. So many good things. Also feel free to join the Here We Are online community by following here, we are on our Facebook page and Instagram. If you're looking to go one step further and financially support what I'm doing with the podcast. Head on over to Patreon.com search for Here We Are: The Podcast and sign up for one of the many quirky support tiers. Until next time, don't forget that curiosity wins and the world needs more nerds. Bye.