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Cryptocurrency Bitcoin One Man’s Amazing Journey to the Center of the Bowling Ball


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Cryptocurrency Bitcoin One Man’s Amazing Journey to the Center of the Bowling Ball

The sweet clang of scattering pins echoed through Western Bowl, a cavernous 68-lane bowling alley on the edge of Cincinnati. It was day one of the 1993 Super Hoinke, a Thanksgiving weekend tournament that drew hundreds of the nation’s top amateurs—teachers, accountants, and truck drivers who excelled at the art of scoring strikes. They came…

Cryptocurrency  Bitcoin One Man’s Amazing Journey to the Center of the Bowling Ball

Cryptocurrency Bitcoin

The sweet clang of scattering pins echoed through Western Bowl, a cavernous 68-lane bowling alley on the edge of Cincinnati. It was day one of the 1993 Super Hoinke, a Thanksgiving weekend tournament that drew hundreds of the nation’s top amateurs—teachers, accountants, and truck drivers who excelled at the art of scoring strikes. They came to the Super Hoinke (“HOING-key”) to vie for a $100,000 grand prize and bowling-world fame.

Between games, many bowlers drifted to the alley’s pro shop to soak in the wisdom of Maurice “Mo” Pinel, a star ball designer for the sporting-goods giant AMF. Pinel had come to Cincinnati to promote his latest creation, the Sumo. The bowling ball had launched the year before, backed by a TV commercial featuring a ginormous Japanese wrestler bellyflopping down a lane, with the tagline “Flat out, more power than you’ve ever seen in a bowling center.” The ball had quickly become a sensation, hailed for the way it naturally darted sideways across the lane—a quality known as flare. To congratulate Pinel on the sale of the 100,000th Sumo, AMF had given him a chunky medallion embossed with writing in kanji, a bauble that dangled from his neck as he held court at the Super Hoinke.

The paunchy, shaggy-haired Pinel spent hours regaling the pro-shop crowd with his opinions on the Sumo and all things ball-related. His blunt commentary, delivered in the thick Brooklynese of his youth, ranged from the correct technique for drilling finger holes to his rival designers’ failure to appreciate Newton’s second law. The audience lapped up his acerbic takes on how to improve the sport’s most essential piece of equipment.

Fifteen-year-old Ronald Hickland Jr. was among the enthralled. A gifted math and science student who was falling in love with bowling, Hickland was captivated by Pinel’s zest for breaking down the technical minutiae of why balls roll the way they do. He was equally impressed by the flashiness of Pinel’s jewelry: In addition to the gaudy kanji necklace, Pinel sported a top-of-the-line Movado wristwatch—a luxury he was able to afford thanks to the $3-per-ball royalty he was getting from AMF.

Hickland had traveled from Indiana to cheer on his dad at the Super Hoinke. Listening to Pinel, he found his calling in life. “It was like lightning,” he recalls. “And I was like, well, how do I get your job when I grow up?”

Pinel cautioned the teenager that the road ahead would be difficult. He would first have to earn a degree in mechanical or chemical engineering, after which he’d need vast amounts of persistence and luck: The number of full-time bowling ball designers in the world could be counted on two hands.

Asymmetrical cores, it turned out, can make a dramatic difference in the spin and trajectory of a bowling shot.

Photograph: Elizabeth Renstrom

Hickland took that advice to heart, and he would eventually become one of the fortunate few to carve out a long career in ball design. He knows many would dismiss his chosen profession as frivolous. Bowling is easy to shrug off as a mere leisure pursuit—a boozy weekend pastime in which anyone with decent hand-eye coordination can perform well enough. But hardcore bowlers have a very different take on the sport: To them it’s a physics puzzle so elaborate that it can never be mastered, no matter how many thousands of hours they spend pondering the variables that can ruin a ball’s 60-foot journey to the pins. The athletes who obsess over this complexity also understand the debt they owe to Pinel, whose career as a ball designer was just beginning when he attended the Super Hoinke in 1993. Notorious as a bit of a colorful crank, he is also the figure most responsible for transforming how bowlers think about the scientific limits of their sport.

In the early days of the pandemic, when ambulance sirens wailed nonstop in my hard-hit Queens, New York, neighborhood, I often soothed myself by bingeing YouTube clips of bowling. I can’t remember how I first plunged down that rabbit hole, though it might have involved clicking a “Recommended for You” video in the sidebar next to the Jesus Quintana scene from The Big Lebowski. My personal experience with bowling amounted to little more than a few madcap nights with friends, yet I devoured hours’ worth of highlights from professional matches, marveling at the athletes’ ability to arc their shots with such precision. Flair atop flare. There was something hypnotic about the physics of the balls’ movement, how those sleek orbs danced along the gutters before gracefully breaking toward the pins as if nudged by unseen hands.

Gorging on this content piqued my curiosity about the role a ball’s physical properties play in determining the outcome of each shot. A bowler’s prowess is clearly what matters most, but I assumed the composition of the balls must factor into the equation—arguably more so than in any other sport, given bowling’s simplicity. I became keen to learn how bowling balls are constructed and how much of an edge a bowler can glean by using a ball that’s been tailored to enhance their skills.

Grasping the basics of ball design turned out to be more complicated than I’d imagined. When I waded into the archives of Bowling This Month to study the magazine’s ball reviews, I was overwhelmed by nearly a thousand detailed evaluations, each peppered with jargon: “radius of gyration,” “positive axis point,” “mass bias location.” And up to a dozen new balls are released each month, almost all claiming to represent technological breakthroughs that will revolutionize the sport. The promotional copy for Storm Bowling’s Parallax Effect, a ball that debuted in March, offers a typically impenetrable boast: “The strategically positioned depressions on the Z-axis 6-¾” from the pin mimic the effect of an extra hole in a similar space and keeps the intermediate differential at a more workable amount.”

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