Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Off In The Corner: Their story

In the tradition of inspirational Hollywood sports movies, the story of Off In The Corner ranks up there with the best of them. Unfortunately, they forgot to bring a camera to film it. That is not to say that their story had no audience. Many people were witness to Off In The Corner's underdog story during their twelve weeks of play. For those that we're not fortunate to experience their legacy. This is their story...

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The Jesus Quintana Bowling League or JQBL is one of bowling's toughest amateur bowling leagues in North America. Based out of Santa Monica, the JQBL has a long history of grooming the greatest bowling talent since the thirties. Past bowling league members have included:

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Georgie "Boom Boom" Carmichael, winner of the North American Bowling Championships an unmatched 34 times.

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Hattie "Lady Deathstrike" Franklin-Dunwitty, the first woman to win back to back world bowling titles.

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Collette "The Hammer" Carlton, bowled 3 straight perfect games in a row. However, tragedy struck as she delivered her final strike when she collapsed and died on the lane.

Knowing full well the type of competition she would face, Off In The Corner team captain Heather "Fatty McGutterpants" Jack set out to assemble the greatest team of bowling talent she could find.

She recruited her first team member Mary "POP-pins" Rohlich at a community center where Mary was showing deaf children how to teach bowling to blind children.

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Mary POP-pins

Impressed by her skills, Heather approached Mary about joining the team.

Tired of her students' inability to pay attention, Mary agreed to join. "They weren't listening to me anyway" she said. Mary also said she knew of another bowler that would be perfect for the team.

Heather didn't need any convincing, and soon they were off to a seedy section of Chinatown in search of their third bowler. They were looking for Eric "Beau" Ling who often hustled people for cash during back alley bowling games. Mary knew that if they searched hard enough, it wouldn't take long to find him.

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Beau Ling

When Heather and Mary found Eric, he was laying face down in a pool of blood and vomit after being beaten terribly when thugs realized he was fixing the bowling games. Barely conscious Eric was muttering things that neither Heather nor Mary could understand due to his thick Chinese accent. Having hit rock bottom, Eric gratefully accepted the chance of redemption when he was asked to join the team. This was an opportunity for him to be somebody, and to improve his English which at this point was serviceable at best.

The three of them embarked on a quest to find the last member of their team, a team member that would unite them all in their aspirations for bowling glory. Heather had heard that a bowler of great skill and accuracy lived off shore on a fishing boat near the Santa Monica Pier. His name was Jeff "Captain Jack SPARE-ow" McDowell.

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"Captain Jack SPARE-ow"

Jeff was so fed up with the state of bowling, that he holed himself up in his boat where he had lived for the past three years. He was reluctant to join at first, but the three of them, Heather, Mary and Eric convinced Jeff that the team would reinvigorate bowling, and take the sport out of the dark ages it had succumbed to.

With the team now in place, Off In The Corner joined the JQBL. The first few weeks of play were rough. The new team was rusty, but even someone unfamiliar with the sport could see that there was immense potential hidden behind their scrappy performances. They were quickly becoming the team to watch, due to their unabashed cheering, and high five-ing. Off In The Corner was indeed the shot in the arm that the sport of bowling sorely needed. The team was bringing new life and excitement to an otherwise boring spectator sport. One team whispered to each other, "That team high fives, even when they don't make anything!". It's this sort of attitude, the aversion to wild high five-ing and celebration that kept bowling in the dark ages for so long. The other teams didn't know what to make of these antics.

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Off In The Corner remained near the bottom of the standings for a while, but they were not discouraged. A marked change in their play occured however, with the inclusion shirts.

The team shirts, proved to be the catalyst for Off In The Corner's amazing climb up the standings. It was serious now. The other teams noticed too. The look on their faces were a mixture of jealousy and fear. They knew that once Off In The Corner had their shirts on, they were unstoppable.

The weeks flew by as Off In The Corner dispatched their opponents with ease. Their margins of victory grew larger in larger as other teams were left in their wake. They were quickly becoming the biggest team in the JQBL.

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Before anyone could blink, Off In The Corner climbed all the way up to fourth place. Just weeks prior they had no shot of competing, now the team had a legitimate shot of winning the whole thing. Buzz grew around the ranks of bowlers, their reactions were a mix of shock and awe. "Off In The Corner are in the playoffs?", or "They're in fourth place?" was often heard around the lanes. The team was riding a wave of success, and they felt confident that they could take it all the way to to the championship.

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After a week off for Thanksgiving, JQBL playoffs started with sixteen teams. Off In The Corner was scheduled to play LMB Partners. The team showed their determination to win by showing up before any other team to secure good bowling balls, and to discuss strategy.

None of it mattered since LMB Partners proved to be no match for the Off In The Corner juggernaut. Pins exploded, strikes were handed down like lightning. The tenth frame hadn't even ended before the members of the LMB team started taking their bowling shoes off. Off In The Corner had made it through the first round of playoffs.

There was no time to rest though, for round two of playoffs was set to begin. During the night's single elimination bowling playoffs, two games were to be played. The first round started with sixteen teams. The eight winners of that round stayed at the bowling alley for round two while the losers went home. While league coordinators determined the matchups for the second round, Off In The Corner regrouped and remained focused.

The matchups were set, and Off In The Corner squared off against Kings & Queens, a team they have played once before. During the previous matchup, Off In The Corner lost, but that was weeks ago, a different team ago.

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Things started off with a bang! Off In The Corner took the early lead with Jeff's opening three strike performance. The team eventually developed an 80 point lead over Kings & Queens, by the fifth frame Kings & Queens started hanging their heads. Off In The Corner was on a roll.

Then Tim Farmer came alive. Tim Farmer of Kings & Queens. The bald headed bowling magician decided to turn things on. His consistant play chipped away at Off In The Corner's lead. The Kings & Queens were starting to show a bit of life, but Off In The Corner still maintained the lead.

The Tim Farmer factor increased each time he took to the lane. Wiping his ball with his ratty old Charles Schwab branded ball towel, he somehow called out to the god's of bowling, which resulted in eight strikes for him.

Off In The Corner bowled valiantly until the end, but by the tenth frame the team knew they were out of the running. The scores were so close, with Off In The Corner still in the lead, but Tim Farmer's last few strikes had yet to be calculated. All told, those last few strikes proved to be the nail in the coffin for our heroes Off In The Corner.

Final score: Off In The Corner- 850, Kings & Queens- 899.

Kings & Queens beat Off In The Corner. The word spread throught the lanes..they beat Off In The Corner....they beat Off In The Corner.. Tim Farmer and his Kings & Queens beat Off In The Corner.

So the journey ends for Off In The Corner, but this is no sob story, far from it. They climbed from the depths of the standings, finishing in fourth place with a genuine shot at the title. They may be down but they're definately not out. The new season of JQBL league play starts in February. The team will be back, better than ever. New shirts? New playing style? Who knows. One thing is for certain they'll be practicing and everyone knows that practice....makes better.

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I love it. Its Miracle meets Cool Runnings meets Kingpin. The casting should go something like this: Mandy Moore in the role of Mary Poppins, Jake Gyllenhaal as Capn Jack, "Harold" from Harold and Kumar as Beau, and Joy Bryant as Fatty. Also, Tom Hanks would like to play a mentor type, can we work a part out for him?
Unbelievable! Thanks.
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