Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Perfect Game

When I die, there are three things I want put on my tombstone. The three things in my life I am proudest of and most want to be remembered for:

Jason's Wife;
Ainsley's Mother;
Winner of the Flawless Drumming Trophy in Rock Band 2.

Late on the night of February 13, 2010, so late that it may have actually been February 14 if you want to get all technical about it, I scored 100% on Expert drums on Weezer's "Pork and Beans". Which isn't a very challenging song on Expert, and which any member of our fake band "Induhcision" could have posted a perfect score on. But it just so happened that by sheer good luck and good timing I was the first in our band to hit this milestone.

For those of you who don't play Rock Band 2, this means I got through an entire song on the hardest level without missing a single note. I believe it said I hit 993 notes in a row. As I was drumming, I occasionally thought to myself, "Have I missed a note yet? Because I kinda don't think I have." But perfection is awfully hard to come by and, like the Democrat that I am, I have a habit of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory and finding a way to lose. I do not bank on perfection. The score at the end left me shocked and awed and prouder of myself than I should have been over just a game.

I think this makes up for the great Intellivision Bowling Disappointment of 1982.

While all the cool kids played Atari, my family had an Intellivision system. So I missed out on things like Pac Man and Kaboom (well, not really, because I could just walk across the street to my friend's house to get my Kaboom fix) but I dare say all you Atari people missed out on Intellivision bowling. Compared to Atari bowling, Intellivision's version was like Avatar--it looked as close to the real thing as technology could do at the time. If you could imagine yourself pixellated and in only two colors (a flesh tone and either red or blue) you felt like you were really bowling. And because of Intellivision's "advanced" controller, you even got the blisters on your thumbs almost like you would from sticking your digits into a bowling ball.

My family became addicted, but my mom and I more than Dad and my sister. My mom was on a bowling league at the time and had even had her picture in the paper for bowling a 500 series one night. It was the only sport she'd ever done. She loved it because Intellivision bowling let players change the weight of the ball, determine throwing speed, add spin, and change the floor slickness. It took a while, but we eventually found a formula that could practically guarantee a strike if (and this was the big IF) you entered everything in right, stood your guy two clicks from the far left, and hit the Intellivision controller wheel with your thumbnail exactly at 5 o'clock.

With this formula, we all scored over 200 with almost every game. We had epic weekend tournaments that lasted until 1 or 2 in the morning. The leaderboard changed almost daily as we got better and better at it. The digital audience for each game went nuts with electronic cheering whenever a player scored over 200; we always wondered what would happen if someone bowled a perfect game.

We never found out. But we came so, so close.

One evening all four of us played, taking turns proclaiming our bowling dominance. My little red guy bowled strike after strike. Before I knew it it was the tenth frame and I had nine strikes on my scorecard.

Three more to go.

This had never happened before. When it was my turn, everyone got quiet. My dad looked at the TV screen with an intensity usually reserved for overtime Wildcat basketball games.

Click, click, click...strike.

Two more to go.

Click, click, click...strike.

Almost there.

I was a kid at the time, about Ainsley's age. I had not yet had enough disappointments in life to learn that failure is a distinct possibility for every endeavor. In my mind, I was going to get a 300. The crowd was going to do something so unbelievably cool it would blow our minds. I could see it. I could hear it. The ultimate victory was within reach.

Click, click, click...

1 pin left standing.

I knew it as soon as the ball left my red guy's hand. I choked. I didn't hit the wheel at the sweet spot.

Suddenly, the serious tone in the Jim McKay's voice on Wide World of Sports when he talked about "the thrill of victory...and the agony of defeat" rang true. I was in agony. I am pretty sure I bawled my eyes out. Mostly because I knew that was my one shot, and really anyone in my family's shot, to see what the game would do when someone bowled a perfect game.

And I was right. We lost interest in that game, and really in the Intellivision in general, not long after that. No one beat my record of 299, but no one ever scored that perfect score, either. To this day I don't know if the "crowd" would have gone wilder than it did for a 200+ game.

But many, many years later, without even having perfection as a goal (for me and drums on Rock Band, it's really about survival; I am so not the strongest drummer in our group), I finally bowled that perfect game.

And the 8-year-old in me could not be more proud of herself.

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