MOST NIGHTS AT JIM AND JONATHAN Ressler’s bar in New York City, the patrons have a ball. But not Tuesdays. That’s the night the patrons are in the ball. Yes, al Aces and 8’s, the Ressler brothers’ raucous place in Manhattan’s East Village, a new trend is rumbling over the horizon. As karaoke singing and Velcro-jumping take on the dull patina of last year’s diversions, human bowling—officially called Biosphere Bowling—makes its bid to become this year’s bar sport of choice.
Starting at about 9:30 on bowling night, impromptu two-person teams compete against each other for free drinks. The person to be bowled (hereinafter, the bowlee) crawls into a red-barred sphere four feet in diameter and constructed of one-inch steel tubes. Then the bowlee, wearing a crash helmet and clinging to hand grips, is strapped into a seat. After that—and a shove-off by the other team member—it’s a wild, end-over-end, 30-foot ride to a set of six five-foot canvas pins stuffed with foam.
By no means is playing human bowling ball a passive experience. “Just because you are in the ball doesn’t mean you have no obligations to the team,” says Lori Fosdick, 24, a frequent bowlee at the bar, which has been offering the sport since October. “I’ve seen some pretty maneuvers—but I’ve also seen people who seemed to be going straight and rolled right around the head pin.”
Fosdick insists that, even after several beers, she has never hurled while hurtling—and, indeed, the Ressler brothers say they’ve never seen anyone do it.
So, is this a spoil with a future—or just another case of temporary inanity? Inventor Thomas Bell, 42, who came up with the idea for Biosphere Bowling after watching a gerbil running inside its wheel, thinks it’s the greatest thing to happen to bowling since Chris Schenkel. “Bowling has always been a competitive sport,” says Bell, who has sold 380 of his $2,600 human bowling kits to bars, nightclubs and fairs. “We are just taking it to a more competitive level.” To that end he is in the process of launching a national human-bowling league. Now if someone can just design a big enough bowling-ball bag.