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Wii bowling match: High school seniors vs. retirement home seniors

This story originally appeared in tb-two*, a teen publication produced by the St. Petersburg Times. Those whippersnappers didn't think we'd see this story. But now you know the truth.

This all started because Rachel Williams' grandma got a Wii, a video game system. Give a grandma a Wii, and you know there's going to be trouble. Sure enough, Rachel's grandma got a big head, then she started trash-talking, and then, well, that gave us an idea. • We'd find some other Rachel's grandmas, closer to home, and challenge them. We'd let them score a few points, keep it close enough to make it resemble a real competition. Then we'd all hug and get our pictures made and go home feeling warm and smug. • Enter the PBT Mighty Bombers from Philip Benjamin Tower, a retirement community in St. Petersburg. They took their Wii seriously. They'd just won a tournament. • They jumped at our challenge. We hoped we wouldn't beat them too badly.

The Bombers greeted us sweetly. A quick coin toss determined that we bowled first. And then an ominous, casual remark: "This isn't Facebook," a Bomber said, for reasons we can no longer recall. "This is bowling."

Bowling first for the teen seniors was Domonic Botto, who's 18 and goes to Brandon High. He took out five pins. Picking up a spare was Liz Nordlinger, 18, a student at Lakewood High in St. Petersburg. Rachel Williams, who's 17 and goes to Gibbs High in St. Petersburg, took to her grandma's sport like a champ. Another spare.

We were holding our own. Liz even got cocky. She bowled underhanded, then behind her back. The crowd went wild. Well, wildish. They squealed and cheered. And the pins kept dropping. She added a hop, then a spin. A strike! Even with another player's gutter ball, we were golden.

The Bombers applauded politely, like bemused parents at a preschool holiday pageant.

Their turn.

"Let's hear some noise!"

David Baker, 72, grabbed the Wiimote handheld controller, radiating confidence. He faced the TV screen, lined up his loafers just so. That's when we noticed the ferocious eagle tattoo. On his bowling arm.

STRIKE! We all cheered.

STRIKE! Um? Yayyy!



Bomber Anna Berkey, 84, looked over at us and grinned. "You all might as well go home."

She did not lie. When it was over, the Bombers had thrown 15 strikes. They beat us by an average score of 164 to 114. They hugged us, gave us cookies and juice, and sent us away reeking of shame.

REMATCH! We shouted. Or maybe, WiiMATCH!

• • •

"We've been practicing!" we insisted when we returned a month later.

"We'll see," said Bombers coach Dee Day, 68, seemingly unconcerned.

It was true. Not only had we practiced, but we'd made key changes to our lineup. Dino Della Noce II, 17, a Boca Ciega High senior from Gulfport, had once made the Top 16 in an international bowling tournament. How could we say no? We swapped him for a weak link. Kelly Price, who's 17 and is a junior at Durant High in Plant City, also subbed for another player.

We ordered T-shirts, pasted on eye black (to protect us from the fluorescent lighting and powder blue Bomber uniforms), fashioned homemade pompoms. Our ace Dino showed up with his arm in a cast, but even so, we felt prepared to overwhelm.

Those crafty Bombers knew how to rattle our resolve. They had real pompoms. They had written their own cheers. They even sang us a song. We suppose they hoped that adorable display would defuse our killer instinct.

This time they bowled first.

David Baker started with a spare. Betty Baker got a strike. But it wasn't as devastating as we'd feared. They seemed . . . off their game. Maybe it was because teammates David and Betty were now married, and their concentration was shaken. They cuddled off to the side, turning loose of each other only to bowl.

Anna Berkey seemed concerned. "We usually get more strikes."

Martha Oropallo, 90, shook her head at the defiant animated bowling pins. "They won't go down."

Splits happen! the crowd shouted.

Then Martha — who, by the way, is 90 — rallied with a strike. Anna got two. You had to admire their simple approach to the game. No strategy, no fancy moves.

Still, we hoped that with Dino in our arsenal, we'd dispatch them quickly, send them back to their bingo machine and half-finished lighthouse puzzle.

Sure enough, Dino started with a spare and accelerated from there. Something like fear must have washed over the Bombers.

Dino! Dino! Whoo!

Regrettably, bowling is a team sport.

Rachel, ferocious in her orange and green high-tops, did a little dance. But her grandma has nothing to fear.

"Get yourself together!" someone shouted.

Heavily outnumbered, lacking home-field advantage, we quickly fell apart. They creamed us, again, 180-131.

The Bombers were kind to us losers. Afterward, there was indeed some hugging. We all had our picture made. We left feeling warm and not the least bit smug.

And Bombers, we'll be back.

Meet The teen seniors

Liz Nordlinger, 18

Lakewood High senior, Largo

"When you hear that the other team practices every week, you know there is no hope. Them beating us was just clarification of this fact."

Rachel Williams, 17

Gibbs High senior, St. Petersburg

"This may be our generation, but old people still rule the world."

Dino Della Noce II, 17

Boca Ciega High senior, Gulfport

"It was actually pretty sad, but seeing that's what they do all day . . . We don't do much Wii bowling competitively."

Domonic Botto, 18

Brandon High senior, Brandon

"My joints were aching, my hip replacement was acting up, and I really don't recall what you are talking about."

Kelly Price, 17

Durant High junior, Valrico

"I'm not going to lie. It was pretty embarrassing, but it was okay. We got Girl Scout cookies, so I felt like a winner."

Meet The bombers

Anna Berkey, 84

Previous bowling experience: "The only time I bowled was possibly 10 years ago. My husband and I were at a motel and they had a bowling alley there. That was the only time. This all started with beginner's luck. I got some hints from a book and I did some research."

How long she has Wii bowled: A little over a year. "We practice every Wednesday and play a game every Sunday. That's why we're so good, and why we beat you."

What she likes most about it: "My husband and I moved down here 20 years ago from Brooklyn and I was always really social. I like it here because they have activities like these where we all get together. It's a great form of exercise, too."

David Baker, 72

How long he has Wii bowled:
A year

What he likes most about it: Competing

What he liked to do when he was younger: Skiing

Why you should fear him: "I cut up so many bowling pins they call me the slasher." And his screaming eagle tattoo.

Betty Baker, 72

How long she has Wii bowled: Six months

What she likes most about it: Socializing

What else she likes to do: Ballroom dancing with her newlywed husband,

Why you should fear her: Has highest score in the building, 278. "When I have under 200, I am not satisfied."

Martha Oropallo, 90

How long she has Wii bowled: About a year

What she likes most about it: "It's pretty simple to play and easy to learn.''

Her assessment of the competition: "You could be my grandchildren."

Why you should fear her: She used to be in a real bowling league when she was younger.

Coach Dee Day, 68

How she got the idea to start a team: "My grandchildren."

How she made it happen: "People were asking about it, so the board bought us a Wii and we started playing."

Why she loves it: "It gets people out of their apartment, it's a form of exercise . . . they really enjoy it."

fast facts

The home teams

Philip Benjamin Tower has regular Wii bowling competitions. Here's how the teams break down. During the competition with the kids, the folks not playing were part of a vocal cheering section.

Team 1

David Baker, Betty Baker,
Katherine Warnick, Dee Bernstein

Team 2

Louie Bernstein, Charlotte Shelleby, Martha Oropallo, Sylvia German

Team 3

David Lamp, Jeanette Gates,
Sally Shumaker, Anna Berkey

Wii bowling match: High school seniors vs. retirement home seniors 04/27/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 27, 2010 2:15pm]
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