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June 13, 2011 - Stephen Browne
On Saturday I went to Russell to cover the Bandwagon Days parade and rodeo. I also discovered the rolle bolle tournament, and versatile journalist that I am, changed my plan to do views on rolle bolle and a story on the rodeo to the other way around on the spot.
The reason was twofold. One, I found rolle bolle bowlers will eagerly talk at length about their passion. It's always been a pleasure for me to listen to an expert discourse about a subject he/she loves. The enthusiasm can be infectious, even if you had no previous knowledge or interest in the subject. Come to think of it, that's one of the reasons I went into journalism.
The second was I had my two children with me because their mother was out of town on business. My son pleaded with me to enter him in the tournament after a couple of bowlers allowed him to take a few practice bowls.
One of the perks of this job is when covering festivals and fun stuff, sometimes your family gets to tag along. And I've found it's much easier to approach random strangers for comment when you have for example, an adorable four-year-old curly-haired moppet in tow. It's very disarming, people must figure you can't be a creepy stalker if you have cute kids.
So at any rate, there I was with the nine-year-old in the tournament and needing to take off to cover the rodeo. The gentleman running the tournament told me I just couldn't take the boy out of it without messing up their schedule. But I had to go, duty calls.
"That's all right," said one of the bowlers, "we'll look after him."
Indeed they did. They encouraged him, patiently taught him the technique, and didn't make a fuss when his bowls went wide. I got back to pick him up just before the end of the tournament and he was ecstatic that he'd scored two points.
That's what struck me as a story. Kids playing with their elders in a fun game they all felt passionately about - but not in any way that made winning more important that fun and sportsmanship. It rather reminded me of a story I did back in my freelancing days, when I covered the opening of the European Little League Center in Kutno, Poland, and got to meet the top Little League officials and the legendary Stan "the Man" Musial.
On that occasion I was delighted to find the top Little League people really believe all that stuff about how character building, sportsmanship, and trying your best is more important than winning what is after all, just a game. (With the caveat that when you start to make more money a year at it than the GDP of some countries - it's not a game anymore.)
So thanks Russell rolle bolle bowlers, and everybody else on the long and growing longer list of people around these parts who've made us feel welcome here.
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