We gave it a B
If you want a whiff of how unironic the 1970s were, consider bowling, a sport that on any given weekend was broadcast (usually on ABC) with the hushed solemnity of a moon launch. Who, exactly, were these doughy men in their loose-fitting shirts, their every spare greeted with a burst of applause? In its early scenes, Chris Browne’s documentary A League of Ordinary Gentlemen looks fondly back at an era when bowling was the most popular leisure activity in America — a middle- and working-class ritual of resplendent squareness. As a spectator sport, however, bowling went into decline (it was dropped by ABC in 1997), and the heart of the movie is the game, funny, and stubbornly inspiring attempt to bring it back. We meet the trio of retired Microsoft geeks who purchased the Pro Bowlers Association for $5 million, and also the sports marketer they hired to repackage bowling, replete with ”attitude” and sponsorship by Odor-Eaters. The players who helped him do it include a handful of the veteran pin warriors of the ’80s, such as Wayne Webb, whose now-fading skills provide moments of bitter poignance. If you want a whiff of how ironic this era is, check out Pete Weber, who made himself the bad-boy showman of bowling simply by wearing sunglasses and following up a strike with his patented ”crotch chop” — an ebullient double-hand bounce that’s a celebration of his masterly, uh…balls.