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He averages scores in the mid-80s these days, about even with what an average casual bowler might put on the board. Others, like Rodney Watlington, 52, who is partially blind, send the ball streaming confidently down the lane, tallying strikes without showing much more reaction than a meek smile.
Bowling “is something I remember visually,” Shaner said. Even when I was in the Marine Corps, I wasn’t too terrible — I was like a 150-160 bowler.” Shaner is one of 16 bowlers in the four-team league, each team with three blind and one sighted bowler. Watlington, who joined the league this year, still bowls weekly in standard leagues.
“I guess my average speaks for itself.” In the summer, the league members meet at Tiffany’s Diner on Roosevelt Boulevard to celebrate the season and give awards including Most Improved, Best Game, and Best Three-Game Series. “It’s a tight line to walk, because obviously the sighted bowlers, this to them is more giving than it is receiving,” Shaner said.
“They’re bowling and they’re having fun, allegedly, but what they’re really doing is they’re working their butts off, making sure they’re spotting pins, making sure the rails are straight.” There were other leagues in the area when the league formed, but founding members wanted one in the Northeast.
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Shaner, blinded while serving with the Marines in Vietnam, wore a U. Marine Corps crew-neck sweater and a bald head, while he readied himself seconds before with one hand on a metal railing, as is customary for blind bowling leagues.
The sense of competition and the chance for socializing keep him coming back, Shaner said.
Richard Shaner had already turned away from the lane and was walking back to his seat, when his ball arced into two pins, sending them careening into one last pin still standing, and clearing the set.