CLEARWATER — Bowl-O-Bama is a bowling alley here that's seeing record business and hundreds of perfect games, according to a chain e-mail that's bouncing around the country.
The email even shows a photo of the alley's special attraction: An image of the smiling face of President Barack Obama plastered at the end of each lane. The 10 pins form his teeth. Bowl a strike and you leave Obama toothless.
But Bowl-O-Bama, as you might have guessed, is an Internet hoax. The image is a fake, according to the fact-checking website snopes.com. It's a photoshopped image from a German ad for dental insurance, with no Obamas anywhere in sight.
But that hasn't stopped hundreds of curious callers from pelting Clearwater's two bowling alleys with the question: Is Bowl-O-Bama real?
At AMF Clearwater Lanes on Hercules Avenue, five calls a day have streamed in for the last four months, shift leader Alex Thorn said. And at Countryside Lanes on U.S. 19, calls have rolled in daily since October, some from Californians finding the image on Facebook.
"One gentleman I talked to for 30 minutes, and he was giving me all his political views," said Tina May, the Countryside alley's general manager. "I tell them it's just a bunch of nonsense. I just can't believe someone would do that. It's very disrespectful."
The hoax is just the latest bit of misinformation about Obama rocketing across the Web, from false foreign birth certificates to fake images of him in a "pimp hat."
Why the trickster chose Clearwater remains a mystery. But bowling professionals could quickly spot that the email was a hoax.
"That kind of masking unit, above the bowling pins," May said, "they don't even make those anymore."
Drew Harwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4170. Send letters to the editor at tampabay.com/letters.