Yesterday, as I was writing in Triumphs & Tribulations XX, I recalled some of the past entries from the day in particular—October 17. One of them took me back to Triumphs & Tribulations IX and one of the worst competitive moments ever for me. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: the Tomodachi Lanes choke job.
How I first came across this moment? It all started when the 374th Airlift Wing decided to make October 17, 2008 a down day after a grueling CBRNE operational readiness exercise. In a series of group text messages that included AJay, Latisha mentioned meeting up at Tomodachi Lanes. It had been a little over a month since we all had last hung out and really had a great time. AJay and I met Latisha at the bowling alley, where we also met her secret boyfriend. After pleasantries and shoe rental, we all played a round. I don’t really think Latisha and her beau were really into the game: they spent much of it talking and laughing. Initially, I didn’t think AJay was really into it. Me…I enjoyed one of my best starts ever. I had a pair of 9-spares and a double in the first 4 frames to jump out to an 80-24 lead on Ajay, who was struggling. I started Frame 5 by getting 1 pin on the 1st roll but I got the spare to keep myself rolling. After 7 frames, I had 3 strikes (2 of them on the double) and 4 spares. I had a 130-41 lead on AJay with Latisha and “The Lieutenant” lagging behind. With a whole 3 frames left, I had a 99.9% win probability. All I needed was 1 pin to win the game. And that’s when the whole game went off the rails. I rolled 6 consecutive gutter balls over Frames 8, 9, and 10 to finish with a score of 130. On the other side, AJay rolled 5 consecutive strikes—including 3 in Frame 10—to finish with a score of 131. He won the game by 1 point.
What it meant to me then? I was stunned, to say the least. Heck, everybody in the group was stunned. I had dominated ⅔ of the game and was well on my way to smashing my career-best score of 166. It was one of those what the f*** just happened moments and I didn’t know how to react to it because it was all so sudden and so unexpected. I was embarrassed…and it certainly didn’t help when AJay rolled his last strike and turned around to celebrate before the ball was even halfway down the lane.
What it means to me now? That moment just over 10 years ago still haunts me. Whenever I’m bowling, I always think of it. I’m always more focused, more determined in how I go about my turns and how I handle my strategy frame-by-frame. I haven’t had any kind of meltdowns like that since but I’ve also never had a 7-frame start like that since. To this day, AJay has not offered me a rematch to allow me a chance to redeem myself.